The East Moline Paletero Project

As a teacher, pride for your students never ceases to fail. Whether a homework assignment, an extracurricular, a service activity, or something different altogether — it’s an indescribable feeling. It bubbles up inside of you, and you are bursting to the seams with joy. When they get the idea to start a business to make money for a school trip, so they can further their education, and manage to present their concepts in front of the Quad Cities Chamber, you can’t help but smile. This is exactly what my former students, Sergio Garcia, 12, and Jesús Gutierrez, 13, from my time student teaching 7th and 8th grade ESL English/Language Arts at Glenview have done to “keep their eyes on the prize” and succeed in furthering their education. 

At the end of the year, the 7th grade students at Glenview were approached with the information of the 8th grade Washington, D.C. trip that would take place a year from this June. The cost of the trip? $1600/per teen. A hefty price tag, but such an important experience for the students to understand the historical, political and social events and conflict that is the United States of America. As always, my cooperating teacher, Margarita Mojica, practically asked the students how they could raise the money for the trip. Students tossed around ideas, but one truly stuck for Jesús and Sergio — a business selling paletas, a delicious popsicle that would bring more culture and life to Quad Cities area. What started out as a idea jotted down on a classroom SMARTBoard has now become a QC favorite.

Now these kids didn’t start the business overnight. Wanting the best for students, Mojica promoted the Minority Boy’s Youth Forum, where many of the male students learned how to dress and speak professionally — skills that would not only come in handy later in life, but also to run a business. Jesús and Sergio took advantage of this opportunity, and later used these lessons to present their business idea to Greg Aguilar and the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. Aguilar took the time to help the two develop a visionary business plan and on their pitch to consumers. To the two Glenview students, this business wasn’t a fly-by-night idea, rather a thoughtful concept they took seriously to further their education and professional development. But at the ages of 12 and 13,  Jesús and Sergio wondered how they would get around without a driver’s license and where they would be able to store and transport the paletas.

The story of two young men wanting to become entrepreneurs to fund their learning hit home with several locals, including Abel Zertuche, owner of Zertuche One Stop Auto Repair in East Moline; Jose Nunez, an engineer at John Deere; Gerardo Valesquez, a friend of Nunez; Glenview graduate and bicycle and automobile detailer, Daniel Calderon; and another former student, Imad Majid.  All these people contributed resources, time, equipment, skills and/or financial means. Cristina Sanchez-Lopez, owner of Country Style Ice Cream in East Moline and Davenport, donated the use of her East Moline store’s freezer to keep the delectable La Real Michoacana Popsicle treats safe and sound.

 Now ready to roll, the boys opened with a pre-sale during the first week of July at Country Style in East Moline before officially premiering their bike and paletas at the annual 4th of July parade in downtown East Moline a few days later. I was honored to be asked to assist with this event. A proud teacher alongside Mojica, her daughter, Sofia, her husband, Ramon, many of the men listed in the previous paragraph, and the families of the two Glenview teens, I helped Jesús and Sergio promote and sell the dozens of delicious flavored paletas in the hot and humid July 4th weather. Aiming to sell thousands of paletas in order to pay their loan on the delicious treat and make the $1600/per student needed for the DC trip, Jesus and Sergio are well on their way.  They sold out pf paletas three times at the parade, which is nearly the equivalent of 600 paletas. Not only did the crowd see the paletas as a cold and unique treat amid the warm weather, but many of them had seen the newspaper article on the two young men just days prior to the parade. 

There are so many things I’d love to detail in this post about the boys and their support system, but truly I cannot even begin to describe the amazing people apart of the project in so few words. I will leave it at this — it made me realize how much the Quad Cities area cares about supporting each other and the experiences that education allows students to have. It’s a place that I’m proud to call home. To continue supporting Jesús and Sergio in their quest to become young entrepreneurs and further their education through their 8th grade Washington, D.C. trip,  catch them at local events or donate through their PayPal link. You can also visit the Facebook group to stay up-to-date with the business. Listed below are the events that East Moline Paletero Project Business will be at, and this list will be updated as new events arise. Also detailed is a list of the flavors available from the business. All paletas are $2/each.

Paleta flavors:

  • Pecan
  • Coconut
  • Rice pudding
  • Milk-based strawberry
  • Water-based strawberry
  • Cookies and cream
  • Bubblegum
  • Lime
  • Mango with chili
  • Tamarind

Last 2 Events of the Season:

  • August 18 – East Moline Freedom Fest
  • September 16 – East Moline Mexican Independence Day Parade

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About the author

Katy Williams A life-long Quad Cities resident, Katy is a Preschool through 4th Grade ESL Teacher at a local elementary school. She attended St. Ambrose University, graduating in May 2018 with a B.A. in Elementary Education with ESL and Reading concentrations and an English minor. She loves running, traveling, cooking, working with kids, spending time with her fiance and her family and friends, education, and putting a pen to paper. She will be getting married to her fiance, Austin, in May 2019. Her writing credits include the Dispatch-Argus Newspaper, Radish Magazine, Midwest Writing Center and being a writing tutor at SAU and now for The Princeton Review's Tutor.com.

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