Chalmette High students learn history through headstones - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Chalmette High students learn history through headstones

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CHALMETTE, LA (WVUE) -

Some Chalmette High School students learned lessons in history and respect through elbow grease on Monday as they cleaned headstones of African-American soldiers from the Civil War.

Members of the Junior Air Force ROTC had a tough job in the midday sun at Chalmette National Cemetery. They are called the Hope Crew, short for hands on preservation experience.

"The goal of the program is to connect young people with the preservation trades all around the nation through work in our national parks," said Monica Rhodes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Students are taught to properly clean and document the graves. Shaquine Robinson was working hard with a scrub brush.

"One of the graves over there has Robinson on it," she said. "You can only wonder where you come from."

On the other side of the cemetery, workers took grave stones toppled by time and made them stand as tall as the soldiers once did.

"Whats the name on the marker?" one man asked. "Elijah Coleman, U.S. Infantry," another answered.

The cemetery has been through its own battles.

"During Katrina these headstones were under water," Rhodes said. "They haven't been reset or realigned since then."

She says the workers started on the section of graves for black troops who are actually from New Orleans. She says it's important that citizens and community members be a part of uncovering the history.

"It's a great way to learn about history and respect people who have fallen for you," said student Kelsi Bordelon   

The Chalmette National Cemetery welcomes volunteers who want to be a part of bringing the weathered stones back to life. If you'd like to help, click here.

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