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Ex-first lady, NBA greats visits Arlington school's library

ARLINGTON — The library at Arlington’s Farrell Elementary will never be the same after a visit today from former First Lady Laura Bush, Mavericks guard Jason Terry and several other professional basketball players.

But, the transformation really started months ago. That’s when the district and the Mavericks began planning a new Reading and Learning Center for Farrell, which is in west Grand Prairie. The project, sponsored by the National Basketball Association, Hewlett Packard and the Got Milk? campaign, included new books, furniture and computer equipment.

The celebrity visitors were part of the NBA Cares All-Star Community Caravan, a week of service events in conjunction with the All-Star Game. The NBA plans to have 25 such events and programs in North Texas this year.

At Farrell, the message was all about reading.

“It’s the most important skill you learn in school,” Bush, a former librarian, told the students. “If you can read, you can do well in every single subject.”

Farrell was one of three Arlington elementary schools chosen at random for the NBA to consider for the renovation. It is the district’s first Title I school to receive an state rating of exemplary. Title I schools receive extra federal money to address the needs of their high percentage of low-income students. Sixty-two percent of Farrell’s students qualify for free and reduced-rate lunches.

Principal Jeanne Pakele-Curtis said the community support from the NBA and other sponsors makes the students feel as if their hard work is appreciated.

“It’s a blessing. It’s an honor,” she said.

Other celebrities at Farrell Wednesday included Mavericks players Matt Carroll and James Singleton and WNBA star Ashley Robinson, who grew up in Grand Prairie. Retired NBA players Bob Lanier, Dikembe Mutombo and Felipe Lopez and retired WNBA player Jennifer Azzi were also there.

Other planned community service events this week include fitness clinics at local Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs and a vaccine clinic at a Fort Worth campus, both on Thursday.

On Friday, numerous NBA players and family members will fan out throughout Dallas and at Arlington’s Summit International Preparatory school for the NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service. On Friday evening, 700 Arlington seventh-graders will get a free trip to the NBA’s T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam.

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