The Socorro Independent School District had a dedication ceremony to honor the namesake of the district’s 48th school at Sgt. Jose F. Carrasco Elementary School.
The event in December honored Sgt. Jose F. Carrasco, the district’s first peace officer who served nearly 30 years in the district’s police department. He was SISD’s first and only sergeant for many years.
Carrasco’s family, including his wife, daughter and two sons, attended the ceremony, along with superintendent José Espinoza, Ed.D., SISD board trustees, law enforcement officers, and various other special guests from the community attended the ceremony.
“My father was very dedicated to what he did, and he was very committed to the students, as well as the staff,” said Erika Carrasco, daughter of Sgt. Carrasco. “I believe that’s what got him this great merit.”
Carrasco Elementary students performed a cheer routine to display their school spirit and pride, and a video was shown as a tribute to Sgt. Carrasco’s service and love of Team SSD. School principal Jesse Sepulveda and Carrasco students presented his family with a special plaque.
Sgt. Jose F. Carrasco started his career on Sept. 15, 1986 as a security guard in SISD. At the time the district had 12 schools and nearly 10,000 students.
He was fundamental in the development of the SISD police department, which was formally established in 2001 and was the district’s first officially sworn Texas peace officer and carried badge #001.
“The department today is a reflection of who he was,” said Jose Castorena, SISD chief of police. “Socorro ISD police is about bridging the gap with the community and providing services that are not traditional when it comes to law enforcement.”
Sgt. Carrasco was highly involved with the community and was well known throughout the City of Socorro for encouraging students to stay in school and away from drugs. He played an active role in gang prevention by volunteering to wipe out graffiti in the community, which resulted in reduced gang activity in the schools and increased school attendance.
Five more schools have opened Little Free Libraries outside their front doors to make books more accessible and boost students’ reading skills.
Robert R. Rojas Elementary, Ernesto Serna Elementary, Benito Martinez Elementary, Sgt. Jose F. Carrasco Elementary and Salvador H. Sanchez Middle schools have added the small doll-house-like structures, filled with books donated by non-profits, district police officers, librarians, teachers, staff and the community.
“Little Free Libraries are important for our schools because they help strengthen community bonds,” said Marcy Sparks, SISD’s library services coordinator. “It’s not just that students have more access to books, but it’s also taking responsibility to make sure it’s well cared for and anyone in the community can help lead in that effort. That’s why many of our leadership organizations, like the Boys and Girls Scouts, have sponsored a few of our libraries and help make sure they continue to provide reading material in a safe space.”
The district’s goal is to equip all elementary and K-8 schools with Little Free Libraries, Sparks said. There are currently about 20 of the small libraries at SISD schools.
“What I love about the Little Free Library movement is the visual reminder for our communities that reading is important,” Sparks said. “When our communities value literacy, then we all benefit.”
Drs. Steve and Georgia Lane, of Farmington, N.M., have been huge contributors to the literacy cause in SISD. Through the couple’s Three Rivers Education Foundation, they donated three Little Free Libraries that went to Rojas, Serna and Sanchez and thousands of books to those schools and others in the district.
“This is what the foundation is all about,” Georgia Lane said. “The SISD schools we work with had expressed a need, so we wanted to
fulfill it. We want to help increase literacy in schools. We love what we do. It’s heartwarming to see how happy the students are. We want to make a difference in a child’s life.”
Benito Martinez Principal Greg Hatch took it upon himself to build his school’s Little Free Library. It was a week’s worth of hard work, but it was a true success, he said.
“I wanted to make sure my scholars had each and every opportunity to learn and excel,” Hatch said. “This year, we are placing an even stronger emphasis on reading. I have purchased novels for each and every grade level. I am pushing using authentic literature to teach reading as opposed to using dittos and passages. If I truly believe that my scholars learn reading by being authentically engaged in reading, then I must ensure that regardless of the day or the hour they have access to books. The Little Library ensures exactly that.”
The small cabinet, sitting near the entrance, is a big hit with students, who are happy to have one more place to grab a book.
“I have seen students make sure they take a book with them as they leave the campus,” Hatch said. “While working nights and weekends, I have seen students drop by and get a book during non-school hours. I believe that it truly is sending the message that reading is important and that the only way you get better at reading is by reading.”
For Carrasco Elementary, the SISD Police Department donated a Little Free Library. The school, named after the district’s first police sergeant who ensured students’ safety for more than 34 years, has a student population hungry to read.
“Librarian Cori Stothart approached us with the idea of the Little Free Library at which point we decided it was a no brainer,” said SISD
Police Chief Joe Castorena. “The little library was not the only item donated. We also donated a large number of books that we had inherited previously when we took over the district’s former mobile library. Having all those items, we decided our kids should enjoy the benefits of reading. So, we did it.”
Stothart is so grateful for the incredible gift and continued support from Chief Castorena and the SISD police department.
“Our community’s heart is warmed knowing that they are taking care of us!” Stothart said. “Our scholars are amazed that they have 24-hour access to a completely free resource. I am especially grateful to be in a position to foster a greater understanding of what all libraries are truly about: equal access to information for everyone.”