More than 25 students from the Upward Bound program at Virginia Tech did some heavy outdoors work in a historic cemetery and garden at the Reynolds Homestead in Critz, Va.

The students split in half for two different service projects during the July 10 workday. One group worked at the historic slave cemetery, which is separate from the Reynolds family cemetery. They cleared off the graves, pulled weeds, and removed an old fence. The other group took on the Friendship Garden, also on the grounds of the Reynolds Homestead.

“This place is pretty, but it needs work,” said Brandon Vennable, a student from Narrows High School, as he took his first look at the garden.

The students pulled weeds, trimmed trees and shrubs, and mulched the entire garden.

The students reunited at the cemetery to work together on putting down the mulch walkways that wind through the cemetery. The project was not only filled with hard work but also many laughs as the students worked together to improve the grounds.

“This is really great; I am so proud of you,” Kay Dunkley, director of the Continuing Education Center at the Reynolds Homestead, said to all of the students. At the end of the day the students went home feeling successful. “This is great, I feel like I have accomplished something in my life,” said Brandon Williams, of Lynchburg, a student at E.C. Glass High School, who says he had never worked with garden equipment before.

Upward Bound does a service project every summer during the on-campus program. This year they helped out not only at the Reynolds Homestead, but also by working on the Huckleberry Trail and the Interfaith Food Pantry in Blacksburg.

Click here to see a video of the students’ workday in Critz.

This story was written by Jennifer Meadows, an Upward Bound participant at Virginia Tech and recent graduate of Narrows High School.