by Morgan Smith
Every block’s a memory at Ardrey Kell High School’s growing Knight’s Circle and walkway.
The school’s Marine Corps Junior ROTC is sponsoring the project – part beautification tool, part fundraiser. And even though the buy-a-brick program isn’t exactly bringing in the cash for the leadership development group, it is taking a step in the right direction toward making a lasting memory at the young campus.
“It’s not really drawing a lot of profit, but is more of just a beautification project,” Susanne Todd, the booster club member over fundraising, said. A lot of the money has gone to continue to support the project, although some has made it into the booster’s fund.
The project started about five years ago during the school’s sophomore year, thanks in part to Sgt. Kurt Baumgarten, the director of what was then the Army Junior ROTC. Baumgarten’s vision of the brick walkway was to help jumpstart his program in its beginning years. Though it’s now a Marine Corps program, under the direction of Lt. Col. Robert Wint, Baumgarten’s idea is still contributing to the students and school.
In order to get the ball rolling, the group had to sell 100 engraved bricks at $50 each.
“It was hard in the beginning to say, ‘We’re going to sell a brick, but we don’t know when it’s going to get in the ground,’ ” Wint said of getting the project moving.
But with the support from the school’s athletic boosters and various other donors – like the Ardrey Kell class of 2011 – Knight’s Circle courtyard eventually got going. It was officially installed this spring, and dedicated in October.
Judi Bacheldor, president of the Junior ROTC boosters from 2006 to 2010, said because the leadership program was so small in the beginning – reaching around 50 cadets at most – the courtyard project was kind of a large task to take on. Though the first phase of the project, Knight’s Circle, is now complete, Bacheldor said it came a year later than she had hoped.
“We were able to visualize it – a year behind when I wanted to see it done, but that’s OK – it was done,” she said.
Now the school is preparing for phase two of the project, which is the brick walkway extending out from Knight’s Circle. Wint said he recently received the second 100 engraved brick orders, which will allow work to begin soon.
“It’s catching on more and more now,” Wint said, “so now that they can actually see it, the second 100 sold in a month or two months and we’re hoping that when we get the next phase, people will say, ‘Ya know, maybe this thing is going to stick around for a while and we’ll continue to sell them and sell them.’ ”
The walkway consists of three cement sidewalk blocks on each side of the circle, six total, which will be converted to brick.
“Hopefully in 20 years, some (students) will come back and say, yeah that was 20 years ago… but we haven’t been around that long to have the old alumni to jump on the bandwagon,” Wint said.
Now that the school is making a move on the walkway, Bacheldor said the project as a whole is really something that could be added to for years.
“Every year, every class, somebody is going to want to add to it and want to buy bricks,” she said. “That’s the whole point – to beautify the school, and to leave a memory of the students, faculty and whatever else.”