Kennard Cultural Heritage Center nears completion
CENTREVILLE — The project of restoring the Kennard High School, taken on by the Kennard Alumni Association under the leadership of Clayton Washington, has been nearly six years in the making. That restoration is expected to be completed this summer, and the high school will be renamed the Kennard High School African American Cultural Heritage Center. Washington estimates a minimum of 2,500 youth and adults in Queen Anne’s County will be served annually by the center’s programs.
Queen Anne’s County Commissioners Steve Wilson and Jack Wilson and County Administrator Greg Todd toured the project with Washington April 12.
The old high school building, which sits adjacent to the present day Kennard Elementary School in Centreville, was leased to the alumni association, for 99 years, by the county commissioners in 1996. The building had been vacant for 40 years. Restoration construction began in 2010. In 2012, the Kennard Alumni Association purchased the property from the county for $1 and is now its sole owner.
The mission of the Kennard Alumni Association, a nonprofit organization, is to provide a learning resource that models the history and culture of the African American community in Queen Anne’s County, Washington said. This learning resource will offer programs in education and cultural arts. Washington and his fellow alumni have already begun the process of creating partnerships with area schools and camps.
Washington said the alumni have been in con- tact with Greg Pilewski, assistant superintendent of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, and the McArdle Center in Stevensville, to see how the Heritage Center might be used as a satellite center or a location for after school programs and summer camps.
The Kennard Alumni Association has and will con- tinue to provide scholarship funding for collegiate and technical training programs, and Washington said the alumni want to make certain that programs offered at the center are affordable and accessible to all members of the community.
In addition to being an academic resource and offering a central location for services, the association also has the vision to provide a window into the rich history and heritage of African American culture on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Through the creation of the Kennard High School African American Cultural Heritage Center’s “Classroom Museum.” The museum will replicate the school’s origi- nal science classroom and will be a permanent exhibit with text panels, recorded audio/video histories and artifacts donated by former staff, students and community members.
The original building, constructed in 1935, was led by the vision of Lucretia Kennard, supervisor of Colored Schools in Queen Anne’s County. It was the first secondary school for African Americans in the county. The original Kennard School was used until 1966, when the county’s school system was integrated.
When visitors tour the center they will see the original structure in keeping with historic preservation guidelines. Upgrades of modern convenience have been made, said Washington, with the inclusion of electricity and central heating and air.
The original building, which had no electricity, was equipped with very large windows to provide natural light; these windows were preserved to their original condition as were the walls with the original paneling and bead board restored.
In 1947, a two-story addition was added to expand classroom space and to accommodate the growing African American population in the county.
The building also has a basement, which was called the “Rainy Day Room,” said Washington. It was originally used for storage and had only a dirt floor, a place to go on days when weather did not permit outdoor play.
Today, the basement has been modified to accommodate handicapped visitors with a wide ramp and chairlift to allow for ease of access between floors.
Other minor modifications have been made to accommodate a cafeteria-style room with sink, refrigerator/freezer and convection oven.
Although a very solid building there were unexpected expenses incurred along the way, Washington said, such as the discovery of water leaking into the foundation.
Washington and the alumni association applied for and received grants from the state through the African American Heritage Preservation Grant and the Maryland Department of Planning Bond Bill Grant. The seed money to begin the project initially was matched by the county, Washington said.
Through grants, the $2.1 million project received some $525,000, Washington estimated. The association borrowed the final $150,000 needed to bring the project to completion and is working through fundraisers and pledges to retire that debt, he said.
Washington said the Kennard Alumni Association currently has just 12 members; among them is Madelyn Hollis, a retired teacher who had a classroom in the old Kennard High School. The association is always in need of volunteers that are likeminded in wanting to promote a multi-cul- tural resource and who are willing to help the underserved portion of the community, Washington said.
“Our research has shown us that there is a fundamental need, especially in the upper county area, for after school programs targeting the ‘ underserved’ population of Queen Anne’s County,” Washington said. “This need especially impacts the African American and lower income population that cannot afford private enterprise programs for after school care, tutoring, cultural arts, and advance training skills. There are few community center locations for meetings, social events and resource referral. We believe that the Kennard Cultural Heritage Center will address that need. Programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and language arts will further the opportunity for our target population to advance educationally, culturally and economically.”
Programs to be offered at the Heritage Center include a computer and media Lab, SAT prep class, mentoring and internship opportunities for high school students, adult English/ Spanish language classes and adult literacy and GED Classes. The center will also provide an additional community meeting place.
“The Kennard High School African American Cultural Heritage Center is poised to become a tremendous asset to the citizens of Queen Anne’s County by providing educational and cultural learning opportunities,” Washington said.
To learn more about making a pledge, becoming a partner or how to volunteer, contact the Kennard Alumni Association at email@example.com or online at kennardalumni.com.
Upcoming alumni events include the reunion picnic from 1 to 7 p.m. July 23 at the 4-H Park. Tickets are $20 and include crabs, hot dogs, beer, soda, music, dancing, a short program and class roll call.
The annual fish fry is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 8 at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church on Route 213 in Church Hill. Dinners are $12 for fish or $10 for chicken.
The ninth annual gala will be held from 6:30 p.m. to midnight Nov. 12 at the Heritage Center, 410 Little Kidwell Avenue. Admission is $45 and includes a buffet dinner and open bar, dancing, door prizes, silent auction and an awards ceremony.
For more information, contact Washington at 443-239-2110.
County Administrator Gregg Todd and Commissioners Jack Wilson and Steve Wilson tour the old Kennard High School with Clayton Washington, president of the Kennard Alumni Association.
This narrow room was once the classroom of Madelyn Hollis, a teacher at Kennard High School. When the school was in use, there were 12 teachers for about 250 students.