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Carol Caldwell
Polvadera, NM

Whole Life Insurance

Carol’s Story:
Grandmother Helps Generations of Students

February 22, 2013

When Carol Caldwell returned to Midway Elementary after a number of years away, she experienced something of a shock. The PTO she’d worked so hard to establish when her daughter enrolled in 4th grade at the Polvadera, NM, school had ceased to exist. This time it was Caldwell’s granddaughter who was about to start 1st grade at the small, 97-student school.

“I was devastated the PTO had dissolved. But I thought, well, I did it once, I can do it again,” she says, and so she rolled up her sleeves. She admits the process has been a little rough this time around, with less help from other parents. Luckily she’s received help from her family—her daughter, son, and husband all pitch in—and now eight years later, the Midway Elementary PTO is once again going strong. Caldwell’s youngest grandchild to attend Midway will move up to middle school in the fall, but you get the feeling, family member in attendance or not, she’d still show up every day to make a difference in the lives of students.

School budget cuts have severely affected Midway. “Some of the 4th and 5th graders have read every book in our library,” Caldwell says. Remedying this situation has been a top priority. Last year she organized a Halloween carnival and raised enough money to give the library $900 to buy new books. This year she has organized classroom Box Tops for Education contests to raise funds for the library. And the school’s twice-yearly book fairs? Profits have quadrupled since Caldwell volunteered to run them.

Although she holds the title of PTO president, Caldwell confesses that her favorite activity is fundraising. Last year she successfully secured a $5,000 grant for field trips. Polvadera is a poor farming community, and many of the children at Midway have since been able to visit places they might not have otherwise. When Fridays roll around, she heads up the popular popcorn and pickle sale, which raises money for the school’s general fund. Recently Caldwell introduced the school’s first ever movie night. It was enthusiastically embraced by the community and even netted a small profit.

There’s hardly a single activity at school that eludes this volunteer’s expansive reach. Her daughter was an avid basketball player growing up and now coaches at Midway, with Caldwell serving as her assistant. That often finds her squiring the team in her Suburban to games or home from practices. In this role, Caldwell gets to spend time with the kids, her other favorite pastime. It’s why you often find her assisting in the classroom, too. “These kids are our future. They’re the ones that are going to take care of us,” she says.

In the meantime, Caldwell does a pretty good job of taking care of business at Midway Elementary. She finds that her biggest reward is when a child comes up and gives her a big hug and says thank you. Her long history with the school means that in the past she’s actually worked with the parents of some of today’s children. In effect, things come full circle. “I see the parents as productive citizens and some of them have come back to me and said thank you, as well,” she says. “They remember me! It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Writer: June Allan Corrigan
Photo credit: Michelle Sprouse