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Shepherd students finish service-learning projects

December 17, 2007

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd University historic preservation students have partnered with the Christ Reformed Church/United Church of Christ in Shepherdstown to complete their service-learning projects. They have been cleaning gravestones, assisting in the preparation and preservation of church records, and researching the history of the church.

They presented their work at a congregational meeting Dec. 9.

"The service-learning partnership with the church offers a number of possibilities for students to build on what they have learned in class," said Keith Alexander, coordinator of the Historic Preservation Program. "By preserving graveyards, conserving records and performing historical research, students experience some of the things that historic preservation professionals will do out in the field."

Cleaning the gravestones is important for several reasons. Vandalism, a major cause of the loss of the historical and cultural record represented by gravestones, is much lower in cemeteries to which care is given. Proper cleaning of gravestones can also help slow down the deterioration process caused by pollution and biological growth.

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"The students have been a delight to work with and have been a big help," said Jill Black, president of the church's governing board. "The information the students gathered on the gravestones will be entered into a database, and would have taken us months and months to do on our own."

Shepherd students have participated in a variety of service-learning projects in the past. Every semester, about 100 education students provide 10 hours of volunteer tutoring for the Harpers Ferry Job Corps. Technical editing students have also provided volunteer hours and marketing materials to the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department, and English students have read their own versions of world literature to local schoolchildren.

"Service learning is a unique way for students to benefit the community while gaining hands-on experience," says Holly Frye, director of student community service and service learning.

Next semester, historic preservation students will undertake another graveyard preservation project through service learning. Students will partner with descendants of Thomas Shepherd and will work to preserve, map and research the Shepherd family cemetery on New Street in Shepherdstown.

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