It wasn’t an unusual find, considering the location.
Desks filled Room 220 on Reagan Educational Center’s Reyburn Intermediate School campus, arranged side-by-side, stacked one on top of the other and any other formation that best lent itself to their purposes. See, it wasn’t what was in the junior high school classroom, but why — there was more than academic learning happening within these four walls.
Every Monday and Wednesday after the bell signaling the end of the school day sounds, eighth grade Academic Block teacher and Advancement Via Individual Determination program coordinator Patty Manghera unlocks Room 220’s door. She musters in a small group of students, each tackling the seemingly never-ending tasks of sorting, organizing and folding clothing items from the latest batch of community-donated bags to be artfully placed and hung on the desks for community members to later peruse and take home for free.
Reagan Educational Center’s Wolf Rack has developed a steady system of sorts since its creation in February 2015, and acts as an opportunity for Reyburn Intermediate School and Clovis East students to receive community service experience and benefit the greater area — all from the comfort of their own campus.
“It was created by the AVID program,” Manghera said. “And part of that is giving back to the community. We’re trying to build leaders, and if you’re a true leader, not only should you have a college degree but you should become a mentor to other people so we can break the achievement gap between kids who always go to college and kids who don’t.”
Designed for students grades seven through 12, the AVID program functions as a college prep course that is structured around study strategies, college preparation tactics and eligibility for those who have the smarts to get into universities but lack the know-how.
Manghera explained that it focuses on ethnic groups who aren’t typically represented in college and first-time generation students, assisting them with organization skills and necessary community service hours that not only boost their applications, but personal character as they step into the real world.
The school began brainstorming ways to make philanthropic efforts more accessible to its AVID — as well as National Honor Society, California Scholarship Federation and general leadership — students, and decided to develop a concept modeled after Buchanan High School’s clothes closet program that serves the Clovis Unified School District high school’s students and surrounding region.
“I figured our side of town needs this service a lot more than that side of town, and it’s something our students can do easily,” Manghera said.
A fire near Fancher Creek Elementary jump started the project early last year, with Reagan Educational Center hosting a two-day community food and household drive for the families who were affected. Leftover items were then pared down to find a new home in the Wolf Rack or donated to other organizations, such as Goodwill Industries and AMVETS Thrift Store.
Today, the classroom-turned-thrift store is grouped by age group and gender, carrying everything from professional ladies and junior high school and high school girls to young boys and girls, adult men and everything in between. There are also special sections designated for kitchenware, PE clothes, bedding, jackets and coats, shoes and more.
“Our goal was 70 percent of the clothes would be for seventh to 12th grade kids — we really did want it to be for our students, but we take everything,” Manghera said. “The majority of the people who come to shop are families that have multiple generations, so they need it for everybody in the family.”
Adults are allotted one bag per visit, and are free to take home whatever they can fit inside at no cost.
Wolf Rack works in tandem with Buchanan’s store, so services are open to the public every Saturday during the school year, with Reagan Educational Center’s hours set for 9 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
And it’s always in need of donations. As Fresno transitions into the cooler season, long-sleeved shirts, jackets and hoodies are a must. Manghera noted that childrens clothing, ages 4 to 10 years old, tend to go quickly, as well as kitchenware.
She hopes more people become aware and take advantage of the Wolf Rack, and is pleased with the impact its had on students who choose to volunteer their Monday and Wednesday afternoons to helping others — and on the adults, too.
“It’s important that adults mentor children to give back to the community. Each of the AVID teachers are in here giving our personal time just as much as the kids,” Manghera explained. “What we’re hoping is that kids can realize we can all make a difference in very small ways.”
Wolf Rack is located in Room 220 at Reyburn Intermediate School, and is visible from DeWolf Avenue. To learn more, contact Patty Manghera at (559) 327-4616.