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Rio Grande Rotary Club, Las Cruces Public Schools partner again to deliver 1,800 dictionaries to third graders


Las Cruces Public Schools warehouse staff recently delivered 73 boxes of dictionaries to 1,766 third-grade students in 26 elementary schools through the district.

The dictionaries were donated by the Rio Grande Rotary Club, continuing a tradition it began in Las Cruces in 2007. More than 30,000 dictionaries have been delivered in the past 15 years – some of the recipients are now college graduates.

The dictionaries weren’t delivered in 2020 because of the pandemic, but the deliveries were restarted last year with the help of LCPS staff, who delivered them to the schools instead of Rotary Club members to keep everyone safe. That same plan was followed again this year, said Rotarian Gene Gant, a former member of the LCPS Board of Education and the New Mexico Public Education Commission. In-person delivery by club members will begin again next year, said Gant, who has been involved in the dictionary delivery since it began. He said club member Rob Shelton is taking over the reins of the project.

“A dictionary is a necessity for students and adults who wish to communicate well throughout life,” Shelton said. “That is why the Las Cruces (Rio Grande) Rotary Club has provided every Las Cruces third grader with their own student dictionary since 2007. Until 2019, Rotarians enjoyed making the presentations to the students in their classrooms. Since the Covid pandemic, we have not been able to enter the schools; but, we have been assisted at LCPS by Bridgette Zigelhofer and the LCPS staff who picked up the dictionaries from the Rotary Club and delivered them to the schools where the third-grade teachers will make the presentations to the students. The Rotarians look forward to when we can once again make the presentations in person.”

“We are proud to collaborate with the Rio Grande Rotary in the delivery of dictionaries to our third-grade students,” Zigelhofer said. “There is something special about witnessing the excitement on a child’s face when they receive their very own dictionary to take home. This program is a magnificent example of how the community partners with the school district to enrich the educational environment for our students.”

Once the dictionaries arrive, Rotary Club members place a sticker on the inside of each dictionary cover, showing the club’s Four-Way Test, which can be applied to “the things we think, say or do,” according to Rotary International. It includes these questions: 1. Is it true? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The dictionaries have sections on everything from parts of speech, punctuation, the periodic table of elements and multiplication tables to facts about the American flag, the states, the presidents of the United States and the U.S. Constitution.

Each dictionary costs $3.50, Gant said.

“The cost is covered by a grant for Rotary District 5520 and about a third of it from our club membership,” he said.