Just a few streets away, students at Jim Hill High School are taking care of the cemetery in front of their school. A local businessman is sponsoring the effort to eventually offer them career opportunities.
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“I just wanted to help out my city,” said Jacolbi Hampton. “I grew up over here.” The Jim Hill High sophomore is one of eight Jim Hill High School current and former students cleaning Willow Park Cemetery. The grave site is in front of the campus.
Amerimac Chemical Corporation partnered with the city and the school to fund jobs for student to make improvements across the city.
“I’ll walk past by and just see my work and everything me and my guys out here did. It’ll feel good to say we did that,” said Hampton. Wielding a weeder, David Friday is working alongside Hampton.
“I can’t stay away,” said Friday. “I always got to come back home.” The 19-year-old graduated last year.
“My father always told me, ‘If you ever want something, you’ve got to get off your end and go get it,’” said Friday. “So I always use that motivation and always use what someone taught me to teach someone else younger than me.”
Tuesday, the students began mowing, weeding and landscaping. They are slowly and meticulously covering the acres filled with headstones. Amerimac has been providing youth jobs for four years.
Company owner Roland Powell sees their potential and said while not all students do well in classes, their talents can be developed for future careers.
“What we’ve done is create an environment where we can teach the construction related activities like painting, roofing, flooring and, of course, right here you see landscaping,” said Powell.
Jim Hill principal Bobby D. Brown recruited the students to participate in the project and joined the teens at the cemetery. He is working with the City of Jackson and the district to connect the students with opportunities to shape their future and improve the community.
“We’re gonna make certain that the blight in west Jackson will be no longer. When students come into the school building and they look across the grave site, then they’ll see a well manicured lawn,” said Brown. “The young men will learn how to create their own landscaping lawn services business, as well as learn basic carpentry.”
Plans are to employ 20 students for work throughout the summer by the end of May.