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Ceremony is fitting at Barrett
School dedication underscores efforts at Kate Waller Barrett Elementary to live up to its namesake.

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Date published: 4/30/2003


IKNOW newspaper reporters are supposed to be objective. And for the most part, I think I have been during almost 30 years of writing about people and places in the Fredericksburg area.

But I have a confession.

From among all the people whose stories I've told in the pages of this newspaper over the years, I have a favorite.

She is Stafford's Kate Waller Barrett--or "Aunt Kate," as I came to know her while researching a story about her life and accomplishments two years ago.

From her work with society's outcasts in the slums of Richmond and Atlanta to her support of America's military veterans, Barrett's humanitarian efforts during the late 1800s and early 1900s were well ahead of her time.

She was a woman of great compassion, energy and persistence. And the fact that she was born in Widewater and now rests in the cemetery at Aquia Episcopal Church can be a source of pride for all Stafford residents.

So when I visited principal Kim Austin last week at Kate Waller Barrett Elementary to talk about the school's dedication on Sunday, I was curious to learn if Aunt Kate's influence went beyond the bold lettering on the front of the building.

My question was answered immediately when I walked into the lobby.

On the wall is written: "At this school, we value kids: their thoughts, their feelings, their troubles and their triumphs, and we promise to do all that we can to prepare them for their futures."

I think Aunt Kate would have smiled at that.

"Our theme here is that 'it's all about kids,'" Austin said. "I believe that schools are here to serve students. And that fits nicely with Kate Waller Barrett because she was so service-oriented.

"Every school teaches math and reading and deals with the SOLs. But we feel like we're centered on the idea of giving of ourselves. All schools convey that message in some way, but I think we verbalize it more here. We try to teach the children that service is a wonderful gift. We want them to take pride in doing for others. And that all goes back to Kate Barrett."

Austin said the school presents a service award for every six-week period to a student who has helped a teacher in some way or shown a special courtesy to others.

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