Hatteberg's People - Deborah Hamm & Sherry White

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On Hatteberg’s People, with every small community struggling to be heard and to survive, in Oxford, Kansas residents there are using one of the town’s treasurers as an educational venture. We’ll hear from the Superintendent of Schools, Deborah Hamm, but first we start with the voice of Teacher Sherry White who is an Oxford native.

(Sherry White) “This has been a great place to grow up. It is a great place to raise my kids.”

“It’s quiet, it is peaceful, it kind of takes you away from the reality of the rest of the world.”

The historic Oxford Mill, built in 1874 was worth saving.

(Dr. Deborah Hamm) “I do see it as an anchor. I think it is an important anchor to our community. It is a symbol of things past and things present and things to be.”

When Deborah Hamm became Superintendent of Schools in Oxford several years ago, she saw the mill as a community treasure and had an idea to use it as a learning experience for students.

(Dr. Deborah Hamm)“It is what I refer to to my board as a scathingly brilliant idea. It was born out of coming down here and falling in love and seeing that we ought to do something because we were going to lose this landmark again.”

That ‘something’ was creating a restaurant at the Old Mill run by Oxford High School students.

(Dr. Deborah Hamm) “It just really provided a lot of opportunity for our kids to work with all kinds of people and for me personally, I just think it is awesome. (laugh) And I loved the idea and I loved the idea for kids to get out. This is what I think the future of school is all about is making high school much more connected with the real world.”

(Shelbie Hutchins) “It’s given me time in the summer to work when I wasn’t doing anything.”

(Kaitlin Norris) “I really want to see a future for the Old Mill and for my home town and really just for the experience.”

(Sherry White) “Some of this stuff here has to be cleared back.”

Now back to Sherry White’s project. While taking a master’s class she applied for a grant to construct a walking trail to be built adjacent to the Old Mill. She got it.

(Sherry White) “We were notified that we received the grant and then I wondered…OK, now what do I do?”

Now Oxford teenagers and members of the community pitch in to make the trail another learning and walking area next to the mill.

(Sherry White) “On the trail part we’re working to put some education signs, including some information about the foliage down here, the wildlife, as well as the history of the mill. I’m very happy that I did what I did. As I see people come down here and enjoy it, yes, I’m very glad that I got involved. It’s been a lot of work, but it has been worth it.”

Small towns know the value of history…and using what you have to help the community is what both Deborah Hamm and Sherry White have done. It is one instance where part of the town’s future, is rooted in its past.

(Dr. Deborah Hamm) “I’m hoping that our kids are taking the lessons that they learned here and are being connected to their past, and now into their future.”

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