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Historic Calfee Training School awarded grant

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Virginia Humanities, the Commonwealth’s humanities council, has awarded a $10,000 grant to the Calfee Training School Project which will support the first year of an effort to tell the history of the students and faculty at the historic school.

The grant was sponsored by the YMCA of Pulaski and originated from the George H. and Frances Bibbens Latimer Fund at the Virginia Humanities.

The grant money will be used to support a paid internship program in which local youths will be trained in oral history interview techniques and archival research, as well as learning about video and audio recording and editing. These interns will aid Adaire Theatre Founder Kendall Payne with his plans to use the interviews and archival information to create a documentary theatrical production about the history of the Calfee Training School.

Two local community members with extensive experience with historical memory efforts, Salvador Barajas and Jill Williams, will serve as Lead Researcher and Project Manager, respectively. The entire effort is guided by the newly formed advisory board for the community memory project, which consists of Calfee Training School alumni and their family members.

Guy Smith, son of a Calfee Training School alumni and director of the Pulaski County Department of Social Services, has been a driving force in the effort to revitalize the history of the Calfee Training School.

“Even though I was never a student there, I am a product of Calfee Training School,” Guy explains. “If it weren’t for the sacrifices made by many individuals in Pulaski, I wouldn’t be fortunate enough to have the opportunities I have now.”

The Calfee Training School project received a boost last week when the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors agreed to use money from Community Impact Grant fund to pay back taxes on the Calfee School Building. The current owners of the building have not paid county taxes for several years and have agreed to the donate the building if these taxes are paid.

In effect, the supervisors agreed to use the CIS grant to pay back taxes that are owed to the county itself with the understanding that the current owners of the building will donate the structure to the Pulaski Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Before this, there was no indication that the owners were willing to pay the back taxes and seemed content to let the building deteriorate.

The town of Pulaski has made similar arrangements to forgive the current owner’s back taxes in order to deed the building to the housing authority, which will in turn donate the building to those involved in the Calfee project.

The Calfee Training School was an elementary school for children of color before schools in Pulaski County became desegregated.

When the building is purchased and renovations are complete, the plan is to use the structure as a community and cultural center, which will house memorabilia and recordings from those who attended and taught there. The renovated Calfee School will also act as a child care center which will work in concert with the Pulaski YMCA.

Ashley Edmonds, member of the newly formed advisory board for the community memory project, recently spoke to the importance of the project.

“This project is a living breathing thing,” she said. “We are not just looking at the past for the sake of looking at the past. It’s also about child care and music and supporting families. This effort can address present day issues in our community. That’s what makes this project unique. We’ve got to get behind this.”

In addition to Edmonds and Smith, advisory board members for the historical memory project include Yolanda Hunter Bulls, Vera Carter, Hattie Conner, Kim Edmonds, Lisa Johnson, Kendall Payne, Connie Patterson, Sheila Simmons, Angel Slaughter, Carolyn Smith, Rebecah Smith and Richard Smith.

Youth interested in applying for the paid internship program and Calfee alumni and others interested in being interviewed and/or volunteering with the effort should contact info@calfeetrainingschoolproject.org or visit www.calfeetrainingschoolproject.org.

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