A budding mobile food business that raises money to send youth in East Moline on an annual school trip to Washington, D.C., suffered a major setback this week.
The pedal-powered trike and freezer that fuels the East Moline Paletero Project were stolen from storage on 15th Avenue in East Moline. The East Moline Police Department was notified of the incident, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Last summer, with help and guidance from their English language teacher Margarita Mojica and several other Quad Citizens, Glenview Middle School students Jesús Gutierrez and Sergio Garcia raised $4,320 selling a unique variety of paletas, or authentic Mexican Popsicles, from their custom-built rig.
When news of the theft surfaced, Q2030 Program Director Greg Aguilar, who previously helped the boys develop a business plan, launched a GoFundMe campaign to replace the three-wheeler and freezer.
“Our community is strong because we support one another, and we want to see the entrepreneurial program continue for generations of students,” said Aguilar, who lives in East Moline.
Proceeds from the duo’s sales last summer will pay for each of them to go to D.C. A surplus of $500 will help other students in need of financial assistance attend the trip and another $200 will be invested in the project’s future.
Glenview student Robert Castro recently received the first $250 scholarship. In October, those who contributed to the community-wide effort celebrated the East Moline Paleteros’ successful first year.
Fighting back tears, Glenview teacher Rich Palmer, who has organized the school trip to D.C. for about 20 years, thanked Jesús and Sergio during the brief ceremony for their hard work and determination.
“You have demonstrated what we have hopes for in all of our children,” he said. “I think it’s incredibly important that kids have ownership of things that they want to do, and you guys have done that to the upmost.”
Later in October, Mojica presented about the project during the first Latinx Educational Excellence in the Midwest Conference at the University of Iowa.
“We want this replicated in towns all across the region to teach students about entrepreneurialism and that when they have a goal, they can reach that goal,” she said.
Mojica also runs a leadership development program at Glenview called “One by One.”
Go to bit.ly/2UHn6gB to donate to the East Moline Paletero Project.