Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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William C. & Georgia Sims Carson

William C. &
Georgia Sims Carson


Honored October, 2007


William C. 'Bill' and Georgia Sims Carson

Some people prepare their bank accounts for retirement, but not their lives, and wind up feeling bored and useless. Such was not the case with Bill and Georgia Carson. When they retired in 1995 to Santa Fe, which Bill had loved since first visiting in the 1930s, they came determined to make a contribution. And they did--in a remarkable way.

Active in the United Church, they listened at a small gathering when a fellow member spoke about the special problems of low-income schools such as Salazar Elementary, of which she was principal. With 90 percent of the pupils below the federal poverty line, many of them unskilled in English, with parents too poor to support school programs, Salazar had an annual student-turnover rate of 37 percent, and consistently failed to meet minimum achievement levels. The state was ready to take over the school.

Instead it was adopted by the Carsons, who in 1998 founded the unique Salazar Partnership, to pull the school up by its bootstraps. Emphasizing personal involvement over financial aid, the program started with six volunteers ready to go into the classrooms to assist the struggling teachers any way they could. At first the teachers were resistant, suspicious that some know-it-all outsiders were butting in to tell them how to do their jobs. But with Bill and Georgia insisting that the volunteers were there to help, not make decisions, slowly but surely the teachers came around, and the program grew.

The volunteers--all over 50 and many of them retired--did many things. They read books aloud to the children. They bonded with individual pupils and became personal tutors in difficult subjects. They assisted with field trips and events at the school. They enabled the overworked teachers to take a break from time to time. Bill and Georgia kept recruiting, and the number of volunteers kept getting larger. As did their contributions.

The Salazar Partnership decided that every child should be given a dictionary--certainly in English, and often in Spanish. Soon every child was also being given a book to own and read--and after a while, every child was getting three books a year. Reference books, bookshelves and other supplies were bought for the school. Because good health is an essential part of good education, the Partnership arranged for a full-time nurse and physical-education instructor at the school. With La Familia Medical Center, a Healthy Schools program was initiated to provide care, for pupils and their families. A fund was set up to help students’ families in emergencies. An art club was started. When Agua Fria Elementary asked to be taken into the Partnership, it was embraced with all the benefits.

Through it all, both Bill and Georgia have been active in numerous other local causes--the city Children and Youth Commission, the Museum of International Folk Art, various committees with the Santa Fe Public Schools. They were equally involved in their home state of Illinois before moving here. Yet since coming to Santa Fe, their focus has been the Salazar Partnership. The results have been astonishing. Long ago the number of active volunteers passed the 100 mark. The number of books distributed neared the 20,000 mark. Salazar Elementary, once on the verge of being condemned by the state, regained its academic standing, and was declared a “profile in excellence.”

“For children to know that there is a person who truly cares about them, and cares that they succeed in school, is probably one of the most important gifts that an adult can give to a child,” wrote a teacher nominating Bill and Georgia to be Living Treasures. “I really believe that their good hearts will always continue to beat in the halls of Salazar Elementary, for they helped give it a new life.” Summed up someone else, saluting their marriage as well as their work: “Simply put, Bill and Georgia Carson are my heroes.”


Story by Richard McCord

Photo © 2007 Steve Northup