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What We Do

REF Grants at Work!

We believe that when children achieve their potential, they make a brighter future possible for both themselves and our community.

The Rockford community’s support helps launch innovative projects, pilot programs, and accelerate more promising educational endeavors. Every year we fund dozens of programs that support educational excellence in five focus areas: STEAM education, the fine arts, social-emotional health, college/career readiness, and literacy. While projects vary, they all take learning to a new level. 

Annual we are able to fund, on average, over 50 grants for a total of approximately $100,000 that goes into classrooms and school buildings throughout the Rockford community and ultimately to our children. 

Rockford Book Bus - The big, blue Rockford Book Bus travels many miles to put books into the hands of children all summer long! The bus helps combat summer learning loss by offering accessible ways for Rockford kids to get new books. 

Counseling Dog Program - REF has provided funding for three counseling dogs named Chillie, Gunner, and Hopper. These furry friends support students experiencing anxiety, depression, and stress. They diffuse tension and bring a calming effect to the school environment. 

Makerspace Labs - We transformed basic rooms into innovative, hands-on labs filled with high-tech tools like 3D printers and digital cameras, to no-tech materials of cardboard, lego bricks and art supplies. The Makerspaces ignite passions and introduce new career opportunities in each elementary and middle school. 

Fine Arts - Over the years, REF has provided a wide variety of enhancement grants to Rockford fine arts programs to inspire creativity and to ensure that the show goes on. These grants have included everything from glockenspiels to ukuleles, cello straps for orchestra, drums for middle school band, and art supplies for budding Picassos throughout Rockford. 

Sensory Room - Community support created a fully integrated space for students in the Autism Spectrum Disorder program. The sensory room provides a safe space where a child can go to either calm or stimulate their senses so they can be prepared to learn. 

Early College Program - This program prepares students for a successful transition to post-secondary education. Students earn both high school and college credit for the same course taught by Rockford teachers at the high school. Students experience the rigor of college work while earning college credit all in a familiar environment. It also reduces the cost of their college education.