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Annual Rockdale Earth Day cemetery clean-up helps local students learn about ancestors, town history

Posted at 4:05 PM, Apr 19, 2024

ROCKDALE, Texas — Non-profit Rockdale Earth Day hosted its annual community clean up in Rockdale Friday morning.

  • Students from Rockdale High School helped collect roadside trash, restore cemeteries and plant gardens around the Rockdale ISD administration building and Rockdale Senior Center.
  • Local organization, Rockdale Earth Day, hosted the event to beautify the city.
  • But students at the Rockdale City Cemetery learned more about their ancestors buried there.


"I was helping clean tombstones earlier."

High school senior Georgia Woodard has about 30 more headstones to go.

She's volunteering to clean Rockdale's city cemetery.

But she doesn't mind it.

"I been to the cemetery a few times," she said.

After all, it's where her great-great grandfather is buried.

Non-profit Rockdale Earth Day hosts this mass clean-up — an effort to beautify the city — recruiting students at Rockdale High and Junior High Schools.

Long-time Cemetery Restorer Jack Brooks says it helps fix existing problems —

"A lot of broken headstones, a lot of overgrowth of underbrush, a lot of dead trees," he said.

And helps students connect with their past.

"They go to school, and they learn American history and Texas history, but sometimes, they don't learn about their own community history," Brooks said.

Like Georgia who's learning her relative, Isaac Sessions was a historic doctor in town.

"It feels good like especially since we're all so young right now, and since they are my ancestors — that they're so far away — it feels good to connect with them and get to know things about them and what they did in their past life compared to what I do now," Georgia said.

And reaching her goal of spreading the word to the community, starting with classmates Brandilyn Musto and Averi Borrero who are interested in learning an doing more.

"I don't think nobody really realizes until they see the gravestones or they're actually in the cemetery that there's so many other lives that have been happening," Brandilyn said.

"As a teenager, I don't really think about people who come before me, but to know there were all these people, and they had their own history and were kids here, you know, it's just crazy to be able to see," Averi said.