10/27/06 — Goldsboro High students take on weeding, writing project

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Goldsboro High students take on weeding, writing project

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 27, 2006 1:52 PM

When Brandie Davis started teaching at Goldsboro High School last year, she said she noticed the grounds could use some sprucing up.

The English teacher decided to involve her students, so she made the flower-planting project a class assignment.

Junior Telvon Ford was a member of the English 10 class at the time. He recalls the day his teacher told the class about the project.

"Everybody looked at her like she was crazy," he said. "We never had a teacher take us outside to plant flowers. My grandmother plants flowers. I have never helped her before."

But since the exercise, Telvon said he can now lend a hand to his grandmother's garden, too.

Sophomore D'Rahjae White said he noticed all the trash on the school grounds when he first started the project. Before any work could begin, students had to tidy up the place, pull weeds and sweep. There was lots of sweeping, he said.

Then came the digging. In addition to planting flowers, hedges were replaced and a large looming tree near the breezeway had to pared back. Pansies were planted by the school's marquee. Pine straw was added by the fieldhouse and gym.

And the class had an ally.

Long's Plant Farm, relatives of Ms. Davis, became involved and supported the beautification project.

Telvon also helped work on two gazebos in front of the football field, Ms. Davis said, repainting them and planting flowers around the area. Benches were also repainted, and a construction class at the school was enlisted to repair tables and other benches.

Junior Ashley Thompson had no experience in gardening and admits she was hesitant to start.

"At first I didn't want to go down to do flowers. Then I said, 'I will help,'" she said.

Almost immediately, she encountered a worm.

"I had seen a worm before, but I had never touched a worm," she said.

And it wasn't just the worm she worried about, at first.

"I risked my shoes," she said of her clean, white tennis shoes.

Three English classes started the project, but were soon joined by the school's Key Club.

It was a perfect match, journalism teacher and Key Club faculty adviser Kim McArthur said.

"I thought it was neat," she said. "We had asked what they wanted to do, and the Key Club had decided to do a beautification project. Then we found out they'd already started and we could join in."

About 100 students were a part of the effort, a little more than 10 percent of the student body, English teacher Aaron Carpenter said. He said with there being no horticulture program at the school, the exercise provided students with insight into a possible future trade.

"If you get something like this here on a regular basis, maybe it'll set someone on a career path," he said.

The teachers said they were impressed with how the students immersed themselves into the project. Even though part of the incentive was a class grade and for others service hours, many went above and beyond the call of duty, Ms. Davis said.

Principal Patricia Burden said she was proud of the students.

"Not only did they do some work but they stayed after school, came on weekends," she said. "They didn't just clean it up. You could tell they took pride in what they were doing."

Some of that pride was reflected in the class papers students turned in about their experience.

Ashley said she wrote about how "at first I didn't want to plant flowers. That's something you think old people would do."

Now, she says, "I think it makes me feel proud every day to come to school and know that I planted them -- nobody else. I planted them."

D'Rahjae said for him, "I did a good deed. I told my mama, 'I don't do yardwork'" and yet he went on to encounter spiders, weeds, and lots of sweeping.

"It was fun," said sophomore Ronesh Newkirk. "Something else besides doing (school) work, but we also got a grade."

All agreed it was worth the hard work. Now it's just a matter of maintaining what they began. But more than keeping the flowers watered, the students say that means monitoring others' behavior.

Ashley said she frequently tells her classmates not to step on the flowers.

"Sometimes I'm watching people at breakfast and lunch" to see that they don't litter, Ronesh said. "We took our time to do that work. ... It's not just a junk pile, it's a flower bed."

The experience also provided another insight for the students.

"I think about other people that have to do that job, too," said Ronesh.

"Especially at a restaurant, like McDonalds, where people throw things on the ground," D'Rahjae added.

Ms. Burden said Goldsboro High School is a beautiful campus, especially when extra care is taken. A former custodian used to take a lot of pride in the grounds, she said, but since his retirement, some of the areas had admittedly become unkempt.

The students' hard work is being noticed, especially by visitors to the school, she said. When Judge Howard Manning paid a visit to the school, she said he commented, as have others.

"When we're able to say to them our students did this work, that makes it even more impressive to the people that have come," she said.

And ideally, the students said, their efforts will take root for future classes at the school.

"Hopefully for the freshmen, they'll help out. Hopefully Ms. Davis will be here and carry them, tell them about what we did and what our experience was," Ashley said.