ST. CLOUD - New Principal at Discovery Community School, Curt Rock, had a large goal going into the 2013-2014 school year - build a more welcoming inclusive community where every student felt like they belonged.

Rock ended up using local donors and t-shirts as a way to reach his goal.

Rock took his idea to the St. Cloud Rotary Club in order to try and get community support for the idea. Rock wanted to give every student at Discovery a t-shirt so they could see that they were all part of the same team.

He also noted that many kids at the school came from poorer families and didn't have opportunities to wear fun clothes.  83 percent of students at the school qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"Many of our kids don't have that ability to have fun type of clothes because maybe they're looking for things they need to have," Rock says.

The Community Foundation supported the idea and worked with local businesses and donors to fund the project. The result was overwhelming, with thousands of dollars being donated to supply the school with bright blue Discovery Dolphin t-shirts.

Students would wear the t-shirts every Friday and during events and field trips as a fun way to show off their school pride during the school year.

Rock also wanted the shirts to reflect the schools diverse population. About one-third of students at the school are english learners, 40 percent of the students are Caucasian, 30 percent are African American and 21 percent are hispanic.

"The population here already is so diverse and different, that there has to be something more than just coming to school that pulls them together," Rock says.

The shirts have been a huge success for Discovery. With the school year coming to a close, Rock says that he hopes the shirts will continue to unite students and their families at the school for many years

"It doesn't matter what their ethnic background is or what disability they might have-kids are kids," Rock says, "and sometimes I believe us as adults have a harder problem with diversity more so than children do."


Students wearing their t-shirts outside during the last day of school. (Dan DeBaun, WJON News)