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Sharon Davis visits Southwest

May 18, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

California's First Lady Sharon Davis swept into town Thursday for a two-day visit with an impressive entourage of staff at her heels.

The first lady was here to participate in a number of speaking engagements, all of them interesting and worthwhile.

But Friday morning Davis did more than give an interesting speech — she gave money in the shape of a $5,000 school library enrichment grant to Southwest High School in El Centro.

"Twelve-hundred schools applied for this grant and only 52 were selected," Davis told students assembled in the school's media center as she handed a check to principal Joe Evangelist.

The students at Southwest High may have a really awesome campus with lots of shiny new buildings but what they don't have is a good book-to-student ratio.


With a ratio of less than five books to each student, Southwest is woefully behind the state average of 11 books per student, according to school librarian Gretchen Benson.

In 1999 Gov. Gray Davis and his wife, Sharon, created the Governor's Book Fund and school library enrichment grant program.

The program has a simple but compelling mission: to fill bare book shelves in school libraries throughout the state with quality books.

Benson, interviewed earlier in the week said, "It will be like a kid being let loose in a candy store when we get to shop for new books for our students with this grant money."

In anticipation of being awarded the grant, Benson asked students to recommend favorite books at the start of the school year. Input was also solicited from parents during spring open house.

Southwest junior 15-year-old Genevieve Chavez, watching Davis talk to students in the school's media center after the presentation said, "I think it's great she came here herself. That's an honor and I wouldn't have expected it."

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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