Hudson High School students in the Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy spent their Friday cataloguing graves at Glendale Cemetery.
The Leadership Academy is hosted by the Lufkin Mall Chick-fil-A. The students are required to do two community service projects per year, and they wanted to do something out-of-the-box, teacher Meredith Standford said.
Sophomore Spencer Branske suggested looking at the website justserve.org for ideas, and they came across an idea to preserve grave sites. Stanford said the project was flexible and different, so they began looking for a cemetery.
“One of the things we found out is that Glendale Cemetery is private and is not being funded anymore,” Stanford said. “The headstones aren’t being maintained, and they’re eventually going to deteriorate. The project is to upload them before there’s nothing left of them so people can find their ancestors.”
The students found a program called Billion Graves that allows them to take photos of the headstones and upload them to an app on their phones. Once they have been uploaded, the photos come with a geotag to mark the grave’s location.
While working, the students discovered the final resting place of the namesake of their elementary school — Bonner Elementary School — along with graves with people who had been born on students’ birthdays (only in 1832) and graves that shared the last names of students.
“I thought it would be good to preserve the history in Lufkin,” Spencer said. “It feels pretty good. We’re helping people find their ancestors and where they’re from.”
Senior Alexa Diaz said the project gave her perspective on her own mortality.
“I think it really gives you a picture of how life is and how quickly we can all go away,” she said. “You see tombstones with 15 years, 20 years, 30 years, up to 80 years of living, and you’re gone.”
It’s great to be a part of a program where students are willing to work to become leaders, Alexa said. Sophomore Addison Mount said the program seemed like a good way to be involved, and since she has been involved, she has loved it.
“Honestly, more students should be involved in this,” Addison said. “This is the best feeling you could ever get — helping the community.”
This project in particular is important to Addison because it feels like the work that no one else would do.
“That means a lot,” she said. “Especially with us being high school students. No one would think of high school students going to preserve historical grave sites.”