Celebrating the Kate Duncan Smith DAR School Class of 2014

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
June 11, 2014

On May 16th, I flew from D.C. the morning after the Historic Preservation Awards to Birmingham, AL where I was met by my husband, Steve.  We drove to Grant, AL arriving at Kate Duncan Smith DAR School in time for lunch.  Unfortunately, we missed the Awards Day program Friday morning at which scholarships and awards totaling almost $1 million were presented.  Of the 105 graduates, 71 received awards and/or scholarships, including the Valedictorian who is also a National Merit Finalist.

The school was begun in 1924 by the Alabama DAR, adopted by the NSDAR in 1928, and today is a public school which is privately funded.  The Marshall County Board of Education provides the teachers, curriculum and books.  The Administration with DAR’s help provides the land, buildings, the patriotic environment and extras such as college scholarships, work-study program, a full-time school nurse, the Elementary Art and Music program, funds for families in need at Christmas,  and other services. The Friends of DAR Schools Fund was established to provide educational support, student needs, school building and equipment, and other educational requirements approved by the Executive Committee from requests sent to them from the national chair of the DAR School Committee.

It was fun to share the KDS campus with Steve on the school’s 90th birthday.  Our first stop was at the October Red Glory Maple which Jean Vaughan donated in memory of my mother several years ago, which is next to the playground.  The playground was filled with Kindergarteners and they were curious, engaging and eager to figure out who we were and why we were there.  Since I had recently pulled our oldest grandson’s first tooth, I inquired whether any had lost a tooth.  Many opened wide to show me the gaps or the new teeth coming in.  Another wiggled a loose tooth but when I offered to pull it, she rapidly declined.

The view from the mountain is always gorgeous and this was no exception.  Steve enjoyed seeing the unique architecture of Becker-Horton Hall, built in 1937 of 1,000 rough-hewn, vertical pine logs cut from the forests of Gunter Mountain.  During the original construction, every DAR State Society donated funds to support the project.

Peggy Johnson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees conducted the Board meeting in this historic hall and reported on the KDS Patriot Band’s trip to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, where they were generously hosted by Florida DAR. Heather Green, Executive Director, explained the need to raise funds for restoration and maintenance of Becker-Horton Hall. Elementary principal Keith Buchanan announced the school recently received a grant to fund the first pre-kindergarten class. Middle school Principal Keith Stanfield discussed the 8th grade trip to Washington, D.C. and high school principal Stacy Anderton reported that the ACT scores are above the state averages.

We drove to our hotel on the banks of Lake Guntersville where the gracious Alabama Daughters, Connie Grund, State Regent, had filled the lobby with refreshments before dinner.  The dinner‘s entertainment featured the KDS String Band under the leadership of David Gamble.  We enjoyed several gospel favorites including “Amazing Grace” and “May the Circle be Unbroken.”

It was a pleasure to visit with Sarah C. Craft, a 53 year member in Alabama and KDS supporter.  She shared that her mother submitted her application when Sarah was a Junior and that DAR has made such a difference in her life because of the people she has met and her love for this school.

Helen Carter Moore, KDS class of 1979, shared that as a student she was not only appreciative of the gifts of DAR members but in awe of them.  She became a member of DAR in Tennessee in 2012 and not only feels pride in her membership but also for the school which teaches children respect, dignity, and citizenship.

Returning to campus Saturday morning, the gymnasium was full of students, families, DAR members, and hundreds from the community.  The community support is remarkable as evidenced by the standing room only crowd. 

It was an honor to be the commencement speaker and my talk focused on five things I wished I’d known in high school:

  1. Be nice to everyone
  2. You will be identified with the people around you, so choose your friends carefully.
  3. Ask someone you respect to be your mentor
  4. Difficult times will happen; use those experiences to not only grow stronger but to strengthen your faith.
  5. The world does not revolve around any of us; service to others is service to God

I concluded by sharing that if every school in America had the values and community involvement as KDS does, our country would be a far better place.  I hope you will visit the six schools which DAR supports.  Those of you attending Continental Congress are encouraged to meet the school representatives and learn how your support of the Friends of DAR Schools Fund is making a difference in the lives of the young people.

As we waited at the Birmingham airport for the flight to Houston, I was admiring a photo mosaic wall display of photos and places of Birmingham.  Imagine my surprise to see this photo of DAR members!  I believe the President General is Miss Gertrude Carraway of North Carolina, who served as President General 1953-1956.  Can anyone identify the State Regents?

I must agree with Mrs. Craft that the people I’ve met in DAR have made a difference in my life.  Would you please share with me the difference DAR has made in your life?

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Historic Preservation,
Education, Patriotism

Through restoring historic properties, funding scholarships and supporting our troops, DAR makes a difference in local communities.