Lucille Gallegos-Jaramillo and George Jaramillo have dedicated their careers to education and have helped shape the minds of several kids and young adults through their heartfelt extensions of the self
Life's highway is full of surprises. And it offers anyone with an exploratory mind and a passion for learning, opportunities galore. It also extends plenty of chances to serve and share one’s talents. Thus, the twists and turns, ascents and plateaus, and bridges and overlooks are made more meaningful as brief stops along the way provide precious encounters and gifts, to each traveler and each host.
Lucille Gallegos-Jaramillo and George Jaramillo have dedicated their careers to education and have helped shape the minds of several kids and young adults through their heartfelt extensions of the self. Now, that their journey has brought them here to Taos, their enthusiasm has not diminished.
Upon arrival, a collision of hearts and minds occurred at the conjunction-junction between this true-life, power couple and an eager reading community. The result has been the betterment of Taos kids.
“My journey began in the 7th-grade when a casual question by the mother of one of my childhood friends who asked me which university I was planning on attending,” said Gallegos-Jaramillo, who was dumbfounded by the query, and at the time, was not yet prepared with an answer. “That planted the seed, however, and motivated me to explore the possibility of going to college.”
From that point on, Gallegos-Jaramillo pushed herself to excel in school, breaking through gender barriers and expectations of a bygone era. She earned a doctorate in secondary education reading with bilingual emphasis. Eventually, she endeavored to push others as well.
Her dissertation work explored the level of academic achievement of students in a bilingual program versus those who were not. Because of this research, she oversaw federal and state ESL (English as Second Language) programs for migrant students in pre-K through 12 in Greeley, Colorado, helping them get into college.
“Often, kids just need someone to say ‘you can do it,’ ” said Lucille, who went on to become a principal at the local elementary and high school in Greeley for several years before moving to Taos.
George started at the University of Illinois, where he worked for five years before transitioning to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley for the next 20 years. From there, he was offered a job as an associate dean at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. With Lucille acquiring the principal job at Enos García Elementary School, the two native New Mexicans returned to their home state, and George took a crack at his first retirement. The short stint at idleness didn’t work out so well for him, so George returned to the workforce and became the director at the Taos Public Library until 2013.
Still not ready to take it easy, Jaramillo currently splits his time as vice president of the Taos Community Foundation board, treasurer for Rotary Club, tutor at Taos Pueblo Day School, board member of the Taos Education Career Center and consultant for UNM-Taos. He also spent years as a volunteer in the emergency room at Holy Cross Hospital.
Both fully retired now, the two former educators devote a lot of their time and energy on furthering the mission of the Rotary Club. With a shared commitment to the organization and its slogan, "service above self," George and Lucille join the more than 50 Taos Milagro Rotary members who donate their time to read to kids, provide free dictionaries to over 400 Taos County students, maintain and supply books for the 15 “little free libraries” in and around Taos and raise funds for scholarships.
Fundraising is a big part of the duties the two carry out as part of their involvement in the Rotary. The annual “Chile Challenge” is the club’s flagship event, which includes a golf tournament, best chile in Northern New Mexico competition, silent auction and battle of the breweries. Along with scholarships for deserving high school graduates, funds are used for multiple international projects as well, including the Himalayan Stove Project and the Guatemala Water Project. Along with assisting with the hosting and sending of students interested in traveling abroad to study in another country, these international endeavors punctuate the goals of the club as a global organization.
Through it all, it was the philosophy of their parents that encouraged them to try new things, educate themselves as much as possible and always give back to others. It is in this way, both Lucille and George have dedicated their life’s work.
“Education is power,” said George, who gave credit for this quote to his mother. “It was an expectation for me and my siblings to go on to college after high school.”
Whether it’s reading to kids at the various elementary schools around the county, storytelling at the Taos Pueblo Headstart, judging the Halloween costume contest at Taos Pueblo or dressing up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus during the Christmas season, George and Lucille find purpose in the smallest of acts.
“It's fun,” said George, who reiterated that he and Lucille both have backgrounds that can help others. “So, that has been our focus.”
“When we're gone, we hope to leave this world a better place,” said Lucille, who finds great satisfaction knowing that many of her students have taken up the mantle of service and are passing it along to the next generation. With pride, she points to a bright example of that enactment. One of her high school Spanish students has risen up to become an elementary school principal.
Given all that the Jaramillos have done for Taos and the international community, it’s a small wonder they weren’t named “Unsung Heroes” years ago.
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