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The Anne Hamrick Community House celebrates its 40th anniversary.
LEFT: In 1963, Sammy White (center) lived next door to and attended the original 'mission school,' known as The Charles Street Settlement House.
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Date published: 11/3/2002
In 1962, the Methodist Church transferred Hamrick to a pastorate outside the area, but the school continued to serve students after she left. The board of trustees kept the school running and changed its name to the Anne Hamrick Community House in 1962.
With Hamrick's absence, the preschool changed directors a couple of times until Lewis came on board in 1968. Since then, the preschool has changed locations several times to its current site at the Presbyerian Church in Fredericksburg. Board members have come and gone, but the one constant has been Lewis.
Through the years, Lewis has observed many changes in the preschool. Most notably, the children have changed.
"They don't seem to be kids, to really be kids anymore," Lewis said.
She credits the changing society with the changes in children. Through technology, according to Lewis, children are exposed to more. She noted that while the children are "growing up too fast these days," they're also smarter.
In the beginning, the school catered first to disadvantaged children, and other children could take up any spaces that were left. The preschool offered two classes for children ages 4-5.
Then, in the '60s when public schools began offering kindergarten, the school served children ages 3-4 and continued to offer both a morning class and an afternoon class, often teaching more than 40 preschoolers in a single school year.
With the advent of Head Start, which came to the Fredericksburg area in 1968, the Anne Hamrick Community House experienced more changes. Suddenly, there wasn't as great a need for preschool for the poorer children, and the school's numbers dropped.
This year, Lewis teaches 13 students, her smallest class size yet, and she teaches only one morning class.
But some things never change. While the preschool has always taught the fundamentals of school, like the alphabet and basic counting, its emphasis has also been on giving the students confidence.
"Our position is to promote confidence and to get them some self-esteem and to get them ready for the big world out there," Lewis said.
White also noted that the students learned confidence, even back in 1963.
"They taught us dignity when times were hard," he said.
Brenda Sloan, a board member, observed that the students seem to gain confidence in only one school year.
"You see them in September, and they're bashful, and they cry," she said. "And you see them in May and they're reciting poetry."
The appeal of Anne Hamrick Community House is strong, so strong that many former students send their own children to the school.
"Anne Hamrick is well-known from generation to generation," Lewis said.
White sent his own son to the preschool, and he credits the school with helping his son to become a Navy SEAL.
"Sending my son there, I knew what he'd turn out to be," White said. "They mold you."