LANAI CITY, Hawaii (KHON2) – Ryallah Rae Rodrigues spent a year putting together her senior project. Little did she know, that project would become essential during these uncertain times.

Rodrigues recognized the obstacles that living in a small town and living through a pandemic brought along.

“I found that not a lot of kids can afford school supplies and especially now with COVID-19 that it’s that much harder to get school supplies on island,” said Ryllah Rae Rodrigues, a senior at Lanai High & Elementary School.

With determination, the senior set a goal to gift every middle and high school student a backpack filled with supplies.

“I started already fundraising money. I started emailing different businesses, writing donation letters and I even took it a step further and made jars to put in the community.”

The senior raised over $2,000 to fund her school supply drive happening on Saturday.

With COVID-19 sticking around, Rodrigues decided to include some additional essentials in the bags.

“I pulled my whole family together and we decided we could make masks. We found a cheap way to make masks using rubber bands, shop towels and we just stapled the ends and it actually turned out really well.”

She couldn’t do it alone, Rodrigues found guidance in her school counselor.

“She’s always gone above and beyond and tried to give back to others and instill that same mentality in the younger generation,” said Natalie Ropa, Director of Lanai High & Elementary School Foundation.

After a year long journey, Rodrigues’ senior project became more than just a school assignment.

“We don’t have the ability to shop on Lanai. So we’ve all just been on this island for the past four months. Everybody is really skeptical about going to Maui or Oahu. Just having that expense taken care of and the whole travel part of it too it really just saves so much,” Ropa said.

The Lanai school supply drive is this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on the lower campus of Lanai High & Elementary School. Middle and high school students must be present to receive a backpack. If a student can’t make it to the drive, backpacks will be available for pickup on the first day of school.

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