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Aylett students to host discussion on school’s history

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Aylett 8th-graders make plans for the March 11 program “Across the Years . . . the Stories of Aylett Country Day School.” From left are Kaitlyn Samuel, Ashleigh Cobb, Samantha St. John, Emma Schmidt, English teacher Kathy Watkins and Vasa Clarke.
The Aylett Country Day School Class of 2010 will host a panel discussion, “Across the Years…the Stories of Aylett Country Day School” on Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m. in the Owen Gwathmey Gymnasium.  Ten Aylett alumni will return to tell the history of the school to the current parents at their monthly League meeting.

Last fall, English teacher Kathy Watkins was looking for a writing project that had relevance and value and that incorporated research as well as writing. With Aylett now approaching its 50th year, she and the class decided to take on the task of researching and documenting some of the rich stories from the school’s past.

The students wanted to hear firsthand accounts of the school’s earliest years from people who knew the original stories. They invited Frances Dillard, one of the school’s founders; Emilie Townsend, an early patron and former music/drama teacher; and Garnett Copeland, daughter of founders Dr. and Mrs. Owen Gwathmey and the school’s first Distinguished Alumna. 

Watkins said the students, while sitting in their classroom with these guests, were mesmerized hearing the challenges faced by the early patrons, the extent of their diligence and dedication, and descriptions of the fun they had along the way. Each student took notes and began writing. What developed as a classroom activity has now expanded to include a wider audience. 

When an opportunity arose for a program for the March League meeting, Watkins and alumni director Judy Allen saw it as a logical extension of the writing project and a chance for the students to glean more stories. The students are now busily preparing questions for the alumni panel that will represent the earliest days through the 1990s.

Sitting on the panel will be: Deborah Seal Taylor ’69, member of the first graduating class; Deborah Longest Miller ’70, alumni board member and daughter of founders Merl and Helen Longest; Hannah Overton ’74, current parent; John Owen Gwathmey ’75, son of founders Owen and Bette Gwathmey and current parent; Jay Loving ’81, current parent; Rev. Larry Schools ’83, Alumni Board member; Scott Hamilton ’84, current parent; Jennifer Whitehurst Mitchell ’88, first legacy student to be graduated from Aylett; Blakley Edwards Olson ’94, member of the Aylett Alumni Association; and Sarah Richards France ’97, current faculty member.

Stories likely to be heard will include details about the original school housed in the Old Hotel at Walkerton, the hands-on building of the Millers Tavern school by the parents, fun in the classroom and on the athletic field, and probably a few stories about old classmates, teachers and staff members, too.

“This is a wonderful way to make the connection between current students and those who went before them because they are all a part of the Aylett story,” noted Watkins.

The program is open to the public. Former patrons, faculty, staff and Aylett alums are cordially invited to attend. For more information contact Kathy Watkins at 443-3214 or email .

posted 03.02.2010

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