March 25, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Volunteer educators who work harder than La Grandes Lani Schroeder and Bev White are rarer than slide rules, one-room school houses and PTAs with budget surpluses.

Schroeder and White retired as teachers in 1993 but continue to touch the lives of young people as few others do.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. White and Schroeder have been saluted by the University of Oregons College of Education Alumni Society.

Schroeder has received the societys Business-Education Partnership award and White has won its Friend of Education Award.

Schroeder has been recognized for helping found and develop the Think Link Discovery Center, a non-profit organization that provides hands-on educational activities for children and adults. It is in an old house at 906 Washington Ave.

Judy Peterson, a retired teacher and school district administrator, compares Think Link to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.

Visualize OMSI if it was moved into a two-story converted Victorian home and then you have Think Link, Peterson said.

Schroeder, who owns and operates Sunflower Books, taught for 20 years, the last 10 at Greenwood Elementary School. Last year Think Links Inspiration Room was named in Schroeders honor.

Schroeder, a graduate of Southern Oregon University, was nominated for the award by Graham Hicks of La Grande.

White is being saluted for founding the Adult and Family Literacy Center in La Grande and for her work with the First Book program.

The Adult and Family Literacy Center is based at the La Grande Public Library. White started it about seven years ago. She did so because she believed that families were not receiving the support needed to help their children be successful learners.

White also wanted to help adults improve their skills.

The center was started with help from the public library, which donated the room, and the La Grande School District, which donated funds and materials.

The Adult and Family Literacy Center is run by White and other volunteers.

A graduate of Eastern Oregon University, White is also responsible for Union County becoming part of the First Book program.

First Book is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing books of their own to children from low-income homes. White wrote the First Book grant application.

Since 1998 Union County First Book has distributed more than 9,000 books to more than 350 children. The total will reach 11,000 books by May.

White noted that one of the strengths of First Book is that it requires families to be participants in a continuing literacy program.

Families can receive between 9 and 12 books a year if both parents and children attend First Book learning activities.

White earlier was a reading specialist at La Grande Middle School. She retired in 1993. Pat Atkinson, the La Grande School Districts technology coordinator, nominated White for the award.

Her passion for promoting literacy is endless, Atkinson said.