Hillsboro High School Students Rededicate Memorial Gardens
With the 2011-2012 school year coming to a close, students aren’t just looking forward to the summer—they are also remembering the past. On April 26, a group of friends, family, and community members joined together to rededicate a garden in honor of fourteen former Hillsboro students whose lives were tragically lost during their high school years.
The garden was originally created in 2005 to honor the memory of Phil Baker who died in a tragic car accident in 2004, but it had fallen into sad disrepair says Hillsboro teacher Susanne Frensley.
“The students looked at the garden and decided that it needed to be renovated,” Frensley said. “Once they realized how much the Hillsboro community cared about the students who died, they decided to organize a community celebration.”
Six students in Frensley’s “Developing Community Leadership” class led and raised over $1,000 for the project. With the help of the PTSA, green house volunteer Peter Anderson, life skills students and many more helping hands, the garden was refurbished the with colorful flowers, a clean design, places to sit and reflect, and six new plaques in honor of Lamar Hughes, Damon Donelson, Michael Walker, MacKenzie Manus, Steven Brown, Jr., and Jason McGuire.
“We planted perennials,” says PTSA member and project leader Anna Higginbotham, who also secured $300 from the PTSA for the project. “We wanted to have plants that would come back every year and regenerate, to symbolize the lasting nature of this memorial.”
Six students in Susanne Frensley’s “Developing Community Leaders” class also researched about the lives of the students they planned to honor in the ceremony and shared their stories with the student body throughout the week leading up to the ceremony.
With great solemnity, grace, and poise, Hillsboro students Angel Rambert, Morgan Taylor and Rocquel Fuller led nearly 100 spectators in prayer and remembrance, and then led the group outside to dedicate the garden.
Phil Baker’s mother and Hillsboro High School teacher Brenda Cable cut the ribbon and opened the garden and parents placed memorial candles next to their child’s plaque. Standing by in solidarity, friends and family remained respectfully silent and nodded their heads in affirmation of the ceremony. Though it’s been eight years since her son’s untimely death, Cable couldn’t help but remember all the kindness she’s been over the years shown while grieving her family’s loss.
“The kids all through the year  made all these amazing gestures of remembrance,” she says. “They were constantly thinking of ways to remember him, because they loved him so much, and they came up with this idea.”
Frensley agrees. “This was a really special night, because it gave students a time to feel their feelings and experience their humanity,” she says.
The garden, an idea birthed out of remembrance for Phil Baker, now serves as a beautiful memorial of fourteen students, who are gone but not forgotten, lost but still loved, gone but never removed from the Hillsboro community.