High school students help clean up a forgotten cemetery

Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 12:06am

A small cemetery in Vado, New Mexico is the resting place of some of the state's history makers. But nobody has taken care of the graveyard in years.

On Saturday, a group of Mission Early College High School students braved the wind and dust to help clean up a piece of forgotten history.

Just a few yards off of I-10 sits the Vado Riverview Cemetery.

"You could drive right by it and you would never know it was here," said Angela Clarke, an English teacher at the high school.

The graveyard became overrun with weeds and trash and some of the tombstones were buried in dirt making them unreadable.

James Conley's entire family is from Vado, his grandparents are buried at the cemetery.

"It was a total disaster,” he said. “It looked like an abandoned ship."

Conley and his brother used to clean up as much as they could, but it became too much for them alone.

When the students learned about the state of the cemetery, and the history that is buried there, they knew they had to help.

"We want the cemetery to be in tact so that people know about the people who made a difference in our community," said Vanessa Enriquez, a student at Mission Early College High School.

So they spent Saturday beautifying the graveyard.

"We were picking up all of the weeds and all of the trash. We were putting flowers on all of the tombstones,” said another student, Cesar Gonzalez. “Basically improving the appearance of the cemetery."

The project started back in February for Black History Month, but they couldn't finish.

One of the people buried at the cemetery is Frank Boyer, who founded Blackdom New Mexico, an all-African American community.

Blackdom was abandoned and most of the town relocated to Vado where they built schools and churches for the community.

"It's an honor that we have the resources and the commitment to come out," said Enriquez.

Clarke said she couldn’t be more proud of her students.

"They are the most amazing students and I am so blessed to be working with these young people," she said.

The students are also helping an entire community keep their history alive.

"It is greatly appreciated,” said Conley. “It got to a point that I don't move as fast as I used to, but they get a whole lot done in a short order."

The students hope to get the cemetery ready in time for a Memorial Day celebration this year. They also plan on making this an annual tradition.  


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