Andre Carrier, COO of the Eureka Resort, gives the crowd a pep talk at the EIC Highlights event on April 20 explaining the benefits of the EIC and what it does for ‘Our Town’. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

It has been four years since Lupe Guzman and Virgin Valley Elementary School Principal Cathy Davis began working on a passionate goal for the kids who live here: to read at a third grade level by the time they reached third grade.

Thanks to the efforts of Gerri Chasko and the Eureka Community Initiative (ECI), Mesquite Reads was born and is beginning its fourth year of success.

Eureka’s Andre Carrier, who is the Chief Operating Officer, spoke at a special event on April 20 before several contributors to the ECI and Mesquite Reads.

Virgin Valley Elementary School Principal Cathy Davis, left, and Lupe Guzman, right, said that they needed to do something four years ago that would help their students improve their reading skills that would help them go further in their education. With the help of the ECI, funding has been provided for students each summer to ensure that they read at a third grade reading level before reaching fourth grade. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

“This is an important year,” said Carrier. “Aspiration is something we should not be afraid of. That’s what we have seen today,” he said, of the several students who presented their stories of success through Mesquite Reads and the newly formed Little Sprouts Gardening Initiative. “We introduce kids to vegetables by letting them grow them,” said Carrier. The program is being spearheaded by Principal Chris Jenkins with J.L. Bowler Elementary.

The Little Sprouts Gardening Initiative is currently in the process of forming gardens at both J.L. Bowler and Virgin Valley Elementary, which will allow their students to see firsthand how food is grown and cared for. Students at J. L. Bowler are also planning on building an outdoor amphitheater classroom and even an orchard of fruit trees.

“Watching the kids get out there in the dirt and make this happen and to then see them try the foods and find that they like them, it’s amazing,” said Jenkins, who has also been a reading teacher at previous schools. He sees the program that the ECI has come forth with as being multi-beneficial for the students that participate in it.

“It’s about helping kids see the reason, it’s about tapping in and giving them a reason to want to read,” said Jenkins of the Mesquite Reads Program. With that, Jenkins is forming another special program at his school called The Leader in Me, where his students take the initiative and be proactive.

The ECI has also been a vital factor in the revitalization of the Virgin Valley High School Culinary Program. Chef Chris Noone and two of his students provided appetizers for the attendees.

Previous fundraisers for the ECI have included fireworks sales by the Knights of Columbus, golf tournaments and car shows with a ball drop by the Mesquite Rotary Clubs and a Murder Mystery dinner by the Mesquite Local News.

Thousands of dollars have been generously donated by local businesses and residents, all seeing the benefit of helping the children in the Virgin Valley, who are the future.

Chef Chris Noone, right, poses with two of his students that are in the CTE Culinary Program at Virgin Valley High School, a program that was reintroduced to the school thanks to the hard work and efforts from those in the Eureka Community Initiative and VVHS staff. The students provided appetizers at the 2017 ECI Project Highlights event on April 20. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

One thing that Carrier continued to repeat throughout his talk was his iconic mantra: “Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful. Deeds are precious.” For those who have heard him talk at other events, such as the 2016 Dinner for Life, they know that Carrier talks the talk and then walks the walk, and he will continue to do so indefinitely.

Carrier challenged the crowd in their fundraising efforts for the future years, saying that “for every idea we come up with to raise money this year, find two more. Not because it’s necessary for what we’ve done, but for what we’ve yet to do. The Eureka will continue match the money raised, dollar for dollar.”

The bottom line for his motivation in sustaining a program like the ECI is the ability to control what happens “in our town” and “this year, the Clark County School District changes. How it changes has yet to be understood. But it’s an opportunity for us to take ownership of the schools in our town.” So many times, people move so their children can have a better education. Carrier told the crowd that he wants to “be sure that the schools in this town are the best in the state.” Keeping the ECI proactive and beneficial will help do that.

For more information on the ECI, contact Gerri Chasko at 702-345-4726 or visit the website at