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Pay It Forward | A school nurse exceeding expectations

During Nurse's Appreciation Week, News 8 is honoring Heather McCarty with the Pay It Forward Award for helping her students outside of the school bell ringing.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — This week is Nurse Appreciation Week, so what is a better way to celebrate our nurses than to honor one who goes above and beyond for their students?

Heather McCarty is the school nurse at Rock Island Academy. This is her first year as a school nurse and she has already made an impact on her students that will last a lifetime.

Before coming to Rock Island Academy, she worked at the PACU Ambulatory Surgery Center at Moline Trinity. She was nervous about the transition from a hospital environment to a school environment 

“In a hospital environment, you have a lot of other people in the medical field to bounce your ideas off of,” McCarty said.

She was able to overcome that nervousness by treating her students like her kids 

“I’m just gonna 'mom' everybody, and we’re just going to be everybody’s mom and treat them like how I would treat my kids. And it’s worked out so far this year,” she said.

The students who go to Rock Island Academy live in a high-poverty area and McCarty can relate.

“I grew up in the area just over on 20th, so not far from here,” she said, “to be able to give back into the same environment in the same area and help the same kids that were in that same positions that I was in growing up has just been phenomenal.”

Her sister Brooke Johnson, a fellow nurse herself, has taken notice of McCarty going beyond what anyone would expect the average school nurse to do.

“She spends time outside of work organizing and gathering things that her children here need,” Johnson said.

That includes a weekend job at the hospital McCarty has.

“I do use my weekend funds to try and get some hygiene products and stock up on like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, pads for the girls, to be able to have extra underwear and pants, you know, accidents happen,” she said.

McCarty, at first, started buying a few things here and there, and then over time, it grew. 

“It just kind of started happening," McCarty said. "I just realized I was buying little things here and there for the kids and they really enjoyed so I just kept going with it because I mean who doesn’t want to make a little smile."

McCarty will do anything to make sure her kids have the necessities, including reaching out to local businesses.

“We had a wonderful company donate bins full of socks and they were ecstatic to just be able to be like, 'Oh, I have new, clean fresh socks and show them off to everyone,'” she said.

The little things matter is one of the biggest lessons McCarty has learned during her time at Rock Island Academy.

“The little things really matter. It’s been great to see the smiles on their faces from something so small making them so happy,” she said.

Heather has more plans to impact her students next year. 

“I have a goal for next year, I wanted to get donations to be able to give all our 5th and 6th graders little hygiene packs to start the year off,” she said.

She has already started buying and stockpiling deodorant because that is the priciest and the most-needed item.

“She really really cares about them, and they care about her too,” Johnson said, “I know it means a lot when you send your kids to school and there are people there that care for your children like their own. It really makes a difference.”

For those who would like to donate items, donations will be accepted at the school until June 2 after that you can email heather.mccarty@rimsd41.org for any other donation drop-offs. 

Do you know someone that goes above and beyond for his or her community? News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union would like to help you Pay it Forward to them. Click here to nominate someone you know.

See previous Pay It Forward award winners: 

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