What is the value of a Junior League ‘education’?

Just ask Carol Rasco.

As president for the last 10 years of Reading is Fundamental, the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the U.S., Carol has been a tireless advocate for getting books into the hands of children at an early age, particularly those who are growing up in homes without books.

Before going to RIF, she was the executive director for government relations at the College Board. Earlier, as senior adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, she was director of the America Reads Challenge, a four-year national campaign to promote the importance of all children reading well and independently by the end of the 3rd grade. Previously, Carol worked for four years in the White House as domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and directed the Domestic Policy Council. Earlier, back in her home state of Arkansas, Carol worked as the chief policy adviser for then-Governor Bill Clinton for 10 years and also served as the liaison to the National Governors Association.

Some resume, right? Right.

But her leadership training came at the Junior League of Little Rock (JLLR), where Carol got her formal education in voluntarism.

As Carol tells the story, she got to know Junior League members while advocating for education rights for the disabled in advance of the passage of P.L. 94-192 after her son, Hamp, was born with a disability. That led to an invitation to join JLLR, and Carol never looked back. She says now, “It was an absolutely wonderful experience. It added enormously to my knowledge of Little Rock as well as what was happening in the state. I did my first strategic plan there. I headed the committee that set up the League’s first Bargain Barn sale, a major fundraiser, which caused a furor at the time because it involved shutting down the League’s store.”

Eventually, her work with the Clintons led to Carol’s resigning as a JLLR member in the mid-1980s because of the time she was spending in Washington, where she still lives (though she recently became a non-resident Sustaining member, and her daughter, Mary-Margaret, is on the road to becoming President-Elect for 2012-13 later this spring).

But Junior League training as a leader provided an important part of the education that brought Carol Rasco where she is today. Would she do it over again? Yes, she says, in a minute. Just looking at Mary-Margaret’s work at JLLR brings it all back.