By Ukee Washington
LAWNSIDE, N.J. (CBS) — This is not an ordinary school field trip for these students from the Cherry Hill Alternative High School. They are on the grounds of the Mount Peace Cemetery in Lawnside as volunteers, cleaning up the historic graveyard.
“It looked nice, but once I got closer, there were a lot of leaves and sticks,” said Shaun, a 9th grader. “It makes me feel good because I’m helping this place get better.”
Yolanda Romero is head of the Mount Peace Cemetery Association. In the year 1900, “the cemetery was established for African Americans who could not be buried in other cemeteries simply because of race,” said Romero.
Without volunteers, the weather-worn tombstones marking the resting place of 77 Civil War veterans would be lost to grass and weeds.
As the work is getting done, lessons are being learned, said principal Neil Burti, Ph.D.
“The lesson here is the world is bigger than a teenager, and we’re trying to get the kids to see they can do something in their community to help,” said Burti.
And at the end of the day, students will have a story to tell around the dinner table.
Ayana, an 11th grader, said, “Of course, I’m going to tell my mom and grandmom the history of it and that we got to help somebody, and my family will be proud of me.”
Mount Peace Cemetery depends on volunteers throughout the year. On this day, Yolanda Romero is grateful to these students.
“I say God bless,” she said. “They’re part of my band of angels today.”
Volunteers can join the cleanup effort any Saturday through Memorial Day. To find out how to help, check their Facebook page.
People interested in volunteering for cleanups can also contact Yolanda Romero at email@example.com or 856-546-9069.