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Peoria Public Schools Foundation growing Adopt-A-School, Career Exploration programs

Mike Rundle

The Peoria Public Schools Foundation has “reinvigorated” a number of programs after changes made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a presentation at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, Trish O'Shaughnessy, the Director of Programming and Community Engagement for the Foundation, offered an update on the growth of their initiatives, including the Adopt-A-School program which allows local businesses to partner with a school and provide financial support, donations, or mentoring.

“With COVID, some of the pivots that we had to make were to bring some things in-house to make sure that we could sustain food supports…that we could sustain some additional volunteer supports,” said O’Shaughnessy. “We knew that this year would be the ideal time to reinvigorate that program and reconnect with our community partners.”

The Foundation has recently expanded a partnership with Hy-Vee to distribute food in the District, and also with local grocer Sous Chef to provide items for purchase as part of the Little Free Pantry program under the Adopt-A-School umbrella.

O'Shaughnessy says the Foundation is also working to rebuild gardens at multiple schools in the District, and that their Career Exploration program has been refreshed.

“[The Career Exploration] program, it’s only as strong as the speakers that we can bring in,” said O'Shaughnessy. “We’re very grateful also to align the work that we do beyond speakers with the additional work that the District does in career readiness so that there’s some synergy between that [Career Exploration] club and work that the kids are getting in the classroom.”

Some of the speakers the Foundation has been able to bring to the program include the Peoria Police Department and a Peoria Public Schools graduate currently working for the U.S. State Department in Malaysia.

“There is something about that virtual piece that I think we learned through COVID can open up a world for our students coupled with the in-person career speakers that we still like to bring into the classroom,” said O'Shaughnessy.

As a whole, the Foundation is going strong and is continuing to provide the support that many students across Peoria Public Schools are in search of.

“Of course, the Foundation does a lot more beyond career speakers and Adopt-A-School by providing basic needs supports,” said O'Shaughnessy. “We’re thrilled to be able to do this work with the District and continue to expand and grow as we move forward to next school year.”