Ken­nard Cul­tural Her­itage Cen­ter nears com­ple­tion

Record Observer - - Front Page - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

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 ken­narda­lum­ni­as­so­ci­a­tion@gmail.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.

PHOTO BY HAN­NAH COMBS

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.

PHOTO BY HAN­NAH COMBS

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.

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