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CURRIE, NC (WWAY) — A part of national and Pender County history is the Canetuck Rosenwald School.

It’s one of the original Rosenwald schoolhouses set up to educate African American children in the early 1900’s.

The Rosenwald School is nearly 100 years old, and now, it’s getting new life as the Canetuck Community Center.

“Wonderful, rich history,” former Canetuck Rosenwald student Betty Barnhill Thompson said. “Had it not been for my start here, I would not be where I am today.”

Thompson is now part of the group whose mission is to continue to renovate the community center into a place where senior citizens and children can be served.

Thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Lowe’s, the Canetuck Rosenwald School is one of 41 across the nation to receive funding for restoration.

“The fact that the community wants to be so involved in it, to resurrect these schools where a lot of the older people in the community, their past came from that,” Lowe’s Store Manager Robert Evans said.

Former students of the Canetuck Rosenwald School say preservation is crucial to teach younger generations about their heritage.

“They can talk back and say, ‘well, when I was going to school down there at the Canetuck, such and such a thing was going on down there.’ That brings back to remembrance, and that’s very important to the young folks because a lot of things went on here that the young folks don’t know about you see,” former Canetuck Rosenwald student Ernest Keith said.

This year’s Pender High School Valedictorian Jenna Keith knows the center’s important role in her community because her dad was a student there too. She decided to clean up around the building as her senior project.

“I enjoy seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, just to know I did something to make everyone happy and have the community work together for a common cause,” 2011 Pender High Valedictorian Jenna Keith said.

That common cause is to revive a piece of Pender County history, which began with dedicated teachers in a small schoolhouse.

“They were very nurturing, very concerned about you being concerned about your education, and that’s where that seed was planted in me,” Thompson said.

“I like the teachers here because they might have put a switch on me, but that was alright because it did make me learn and behave myself,” Ernest Keith said.

So far the building has received better insulation and roof and chimney repairs. The center’s board members hope to have a commercial kitchen installed among other upgrades.


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