April 30 was a big day at Cloud Springs Elementary School (CSE). It was dedication day for the school’s new Ben Carson Reading Room funded by the Holland Family Foundation, a local philanthropy run by a family whose members have taught at CSE and whose children have attended the school.

“When we learned about the generosity of the Holland family from the Carson Scholars Fund, we were so excited,” says Kellie Yarbrough, CSE principal. The school put together a committee, and the Carson Scholars Fund worked with them to design a reading area that sports rocking chairs, bean bag chairs, a nature mural, a small waterfall fountain and 500 new books.

As if the new, cozy, garden-themed, book-laden reading nook weren’t enough, both the Holland family and Ben Carson’s wife, Candy, attended the ribbon-cutting.

To begin the dedication, the entire school gathered in the gym. Superintendent Denia Reese and Becky Autry of the Holland family addressed the crowd. Students performed poetry and recitations and presented the Holland family with a gift – a framed picture of the new reading room and hand-drawn pictures and thank you notes.

Finally, Candy Carson spoke to the audience. Carson encouraged students to take as much responsibility for their own education as possible. “If you don’t understand something,” she told the youngsters, “ask a teacher, find someone who can help you.”

Carson shared the story of her husband who, as a child, was doing poorly in school, to the point that fellow students were calling him “dummy.” His mother, who had only a third-grade education and could not read, started taking her two sons to the library. They had to read books every week and produce book reports on them. Carson told CSE students that becoming a good reader turned her husband’s life around and led him to become a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon.

After the assembly, the children returned to class and the adults repaired to the library for a ribbon-cutting, photographs and refreshments.

“We hope the Holland family, Mrs. Carson and everyone who helped with this knows how much it means to us,” says Yarbrough. “We work hard to educate our students and it’s encouraging for us and our students to see that others also care about their education.”

Cloud Springs Elementary School recognized in their printed program the following people who helped make the reading room and the event possible: Angelia Beard, Jill Bishop, Danita Clark, Gretchen Shiveley, Courtney O’Brien; Superintendent of Catoosa County Schools Denia Reese; Director of Operations for Catoosa Schools Mike Sholl; Catoosa Schools Maintenance Manager Scott Carter; Architect Ray Boaz with Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson Architects; Muralist Kat Morris; Tammy Blazenyak, Carson Scholars Fund; Walker’s Oak and More Furniture; Trees and Trends; The Print Shop; Barnes & Noble; Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.