The newly-renovated library at Ross Middle School was officially named the John McLaughlin Library Wednesday night to honor a man who has spent the last 18 years working to enrich the lives of students at the campus.
McLaughlin, now retired senior vice president and co-general manager of The Capital Group Companies, approached the Northside ISD Partnerships Department in 1995 because he wanted his company to develop a meaningful partnership with a school.
They settled on Ross Middle School, and since then, McLaughlin and The Capital Group Companies have nurtured a unique partnership that has touched the lives of every single student at the campus.
Currently, Capital Group employees give more than 5,000 hours of volunteer support annually at Ross. Some examples of their volunteer endeavors include intramural sports, with 16 volunteers donating 363 hours; Junior Achievement, with 54 volunteers and 648 volunteer hours; and mentoring programs, with 75 volunteers and 2,250 volunteer hours.
“John McLaughlin and The Capital Group Companies have literally made a measurable difference in the lives of children,” Superintendent Brian Woods said. “This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for one made it came to Northside almost 20 years ago, looking for a school to adopt.”
Every year since 1996, just before standardized testing season, each student at Ross has received a Survival Bag containing juice, water, breakfast bars, fruit, and other nutritional items. In 2002, as the rigor was increased on standardized tests, the Capital Group associates wanted to do more to show the students that they were behind them 100 percent. They were asked to write “notes of encouragement” to all 900 students. All students received a personalized note in their Survival Bag encouraging them to do their best and not to give up. This project has grown every year since its inception.
In addition, McLaughlin and The Capital Group Companies established the Sul Ross Scholars program. Through this program, more than $1 million has been awarded to Ross students to support post-high school educational opportunities. In addition to providing financial scholarships, Capital Group mentors meet with scholars throughout middle school and high school, ensuring that they remain connected to these students and their families after they graduate from Ross.
Ross Middle School and Holmes High School graduate Marcy Garcia De La Garza spoke during the dedication ceremony as one of the success stories of the Sul Ross Scholars program. She attended Baylor University and is now employed at The Capital Group Companies. She shared her journey and told how The Capital Group changed the direction of her life. She publicly thanked McLaughlin and his legions of employee mentors.
In addition to Ross Principal Lisa McConoughy, former Ross principals were also recognized for shepherding and growing the partnership. They are Harold Maldonado, currently principal of Stevens High School; Deonna Dean, currently NISD director of instruction for middle schools; and Veronica Garcia, now retired.
McLaughlin’s commitment to Ross Middle School is also a personal one. Each December, The Capital Group sponsors a Scholastic Book Fair that provides books and funding for the campus library. At the end of the fair, if there are any un-purchased books, McLaughlin quietly makes a donation for the remaining amount. To date, he has personally donated more than $5,000 in books and reference materials to the school library.
Originally built in the mid-1960s, the library at Ross Middle School is nestled in the center of campus adjacent to an inner courtyard.
Thanks to the voter-approved School Bond 2010, the library recently received a much-needed expansion and renovation. Originally 3,800 square feet, the library now includes 4,755 square feet of functional work space to accommodate almost 19,000 student visits annually.
A newly-configured computer area features 15 computer stations, two printers, and a scanner. Two separate instructional seating areas - each with a projection system - were created to serve up to 80 students. And new bookcases throughout the library can hold up to 27,434 book/volumes.
In addition to the library upgrade, the adjacent courtyard was re-configured to offer a more functional and attractive design, with new pavers, benches, picnic tables, and light poles.