Dr. Hammett, a now retired pediatrician, first became involved with Haywood County Schools when her oldest daughter began first grade at Hazelwood Elementary School in 1958. At the time, Haywood County students entered school in first grade because public kindergarten was not available.
“When Karen started school, I realized that many of the 900 children weren’t prepared to really learn,” Dr. Hammett explained. “I felt that we could change this.”
Meanwhile, many physicians in Haywood County had noticed that their adolescent patients who were having problems in school had developed these issues when they were four to six years old.
In an effort to assist children who faced difficulties in school, Dr. Hammett, with the support of the Haywood Medical Society, began a preschool screening program in 1965 at Clyde Elementary School. By 1968, all of Haywood County’s elementary schools offered preschool screenings.
The preschool screenings helped identify children who suffered from emotional problems, deprivation, lack of socialization, or physical handicaps including speech, hearing, motor coordination, and visual perceptual defect.
Due to school budget restraints, all preschool screening funding came from private donors, and the program had to be developed from available resources in the county. All the medical and professional personnel were qualified volunteers or school staff, including Dr. Hammett, Haywood County Schools Psychologist Dr. Stanley Nale, a public health nurse, a social worker, first grade teachers, principals, and the county’s elementary school supervisor.
Since her pivotal role in starting kindergarten screenings in the county, Dr. Hammet has focused the giving of her time and money to the Science Seminar for capable and interested high school students, Pre-K programs, and Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) training for teachers. This year, her donation will be used for staff development for all Haywood County Schools’ certified teachers.
Dr. Hammett says that her volunteer time and monetary donations are one way she is paying it forward.
“My education made me who I am and enabled me to be successful in life,” Dr. Hammett explained. “I want all children to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”
Dr. Hammett believes to see greater change in the education system, the community must get involved and parents must be actively engaged with their children. She encourages everyone to make education a priority and give to the school system.
“Everyone can give something – whether it’s a monetary donation or volunteering in a classroom for a few hours,” she said. “The stock market is going down, so invest in children. You’ll get a better return on investment.”
For more information about making a tax-deductible donation to the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Jenny Wood at 828-456-2400. Contributions may take the form of a cash gift, appreciated securities or real estate, life insurance, charitable remainder, non-profit organization assets, memorials, estate gifts or wills and bequests, or other real or personal property. To volunteer with Haywood County Schools, please contact the school nearest you for upcoming opportunities.