08/30/11 — They had some time, so they cleaned up park

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They had some time, so they cleaned up park

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 30, 2011 1:46 PM

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Cecily Norwood, Simon Norwood and Guadalupe Cielo, ninth-graders at Southern Wayne High School, spent a portion of their day off from school Monday at Herman Park cleaning up debris and fallen branches that were covering playground equipment.

Siblings Simon and Cecily Norwood were getting a little stir crazy Monday, so they did what most teens do on an imposed day off from school -- leapt at the chance for their mom to drop them off at the mall.

Only, Berkeley Mall remained closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, where a portion of the roof caved in Saturday afternoon.

They had actually planned to meet friend and classmate Guadalupe Cielo at Herman Park, so when they arrived to discover branches and debris tossed about, their afternoon plans immediately changed.

"I saw the branches, they were in the play area. We saw children and decided to clean it up. We didn't want (the children) to get hurt," Cecily said. "It's on their playground."

"We were gonna meet here and hang out but then we saw all this stuff," said her brother. "I mean, we're bored anyway."

"All this stuff was covered up," he added, pointing to a red see-saw that was once again visible.

The ninth-graders at Southern Wayne High School had already been at the park more than an hour, contributing to one hefty pile of branches and working on another near the gazebo area.

"We really have no clue what to do with them, unless the parks and recreation people bring us a big dumpster," Simon said. "So we'll just put them in a big pile."

Some of the larger branches were quite heavy, the teens said. So they would all pitch in and make it a group effort, hoping to thereby reduce any danger to children who might come out to play.

"We're trying to clean it up because Guadalupe used to come here and play when she was little," Simon said.

The three 14-year-olds -- Cecily turns 15 in two weeks, she pointed out -- had only been in school two days before the hurricane that blew through and resulted in students around the county having a day off from school.

The Norwoods were among the fortunate ones who did not lose power or have substantial flooding. They live in Mar Mac, they said, and once they were able to venture out, had witnessed some of the devastation in the outlying areas.

"Driving down Old Grantham Road and near Cherry Hospital, we saw roots that were torn out of the ground," Simon said.

So it just made sense when they stumbled upon the mess at the public city park, that they should pitch in and help.

"It's really not that hard to pick up some twigs," Simon said.

Not that they were content to go it alone.

"We're trying to get some of our friends to come help us," Cecily said.

"We tried to challenge them on Facebook, but I don't think it worked," Simon said with a smile.

They remained undeterred, though, showing no signs of giving up or going home early. Their mom was supposed to pick them up "when we call her," Simon said, and he wasn't quite ready to do that, despite their limited resources for the task.

"We got dropped off with some money for snacks and stuff, no rakes or gloves," he said.

But, he pointed out, the gesture was not a stretch, since he and his sister are both enrolled in the ROTC program at their new high school.

"In the ROTC core values, the creed for ROTC is good citizenship," Simon said. "Maybe it'll set an example for other people."