Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School
Successful Student Preservationists
Mr. Ron Jones
The students at Our Lady of Sorrows have a history of fundraising that goes back 30 years. Along with many other schools, I thought it would be a good thing for us to help restore the Statue of Liberty back in the 1980’s. In 2000-2001 we raised funds to help build the World War II Memorial in Washington.
My family joined the ACPWS in 1987 and our school joined in 1990, making us one of the first if not the first school in the country to help save battlefields. In 1995 we got the call to help save Brandy Station and so we held our first fundraiser. That is what started it all and we have been doing a fundraiser every year since and continued after the APCWS merged to form the CWPT in 1999.
I have had the good fortune of working for the National Park Service since 1984 as a historian, interpreter and seasonal park ranger. This has allowed me to present the importance of battlefield protection from something other than the academic point of view. Most people just assume the government protects all these places, but I can tell them the important role the CWPT plays in helping the Park Service in making a land purchase in a short period of time as the government often moves too slowly.
Since 1982 our eighth grade has taken trips to Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Washington D.C. The trips are taken after we study the Civil War. That way the students know what they are looking at. Well over 2000 students have gone so far including 83 this year. During our study I bring in a number of original and reproduction items from the 1860’s including homemade hardtack. The big hit is a 1863 model U.S. Watertown .58 cal. musket I received in 1988 from a relative – the granddaughter of a Civil War soldier. He belonged to the Michigan 24th Reg. Iron Brigade, Army of the Potomac and fought at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. He carried this musket at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. He also carried it in Pres. Lincoln’s funeral parade in Springfield, Illinois as the 24th Mich. was the Honor Guard. It even has the original bayonet.
Each year for the last ten years, our school has presented a check for $500 to the Harpers Ferry Historical Association and the National Park Service at Antietam and Gettysburg as our way of saying thanks for our visit. Because we are a private school we have a two year history curriculum in seventh and eighth grade which allows me to spend two months on the Civil War instead of two weeks.
As a private school our students wear uniforms every day unless told otherwise. As part of our fundraising I show them programs from the History Channel and give them accounts of my personal experiences at Civil War battlefields through visits to battle sites and work as a Park Ranger. The student council makes posters for the school and flyers go home to parents. For a donation to the CWPT the students don’t have to wear their uniforms for a day.
This approach has worked well, In the 2008-09 school year we raised $24,200 for Glendale, in 2009-10 we raised $10,064 for The Wilderness and Chancellorsville, in 2010 another $1,000 was raised for Franklin and Gettysburg, and in 2011 we raised $10,500 for land in Gettysburg where the 24th Michigan fought. In May, 2012 Our Lady of Sorrows donated $13,000 towards Gaines' Mill. In 2013, we gave $15,500 for Gettysburg and Fredericksburg, bringing our total donations to $125,000.
The Daughters of the American Revolution chose me as the “outstanding teacher of American history” in 2000 for the state of Michigan. I was the Preservation Teacher of the year for the CWPT in 2005 and have been involved in the Teacher-Ranger Program of the National Park Service in 2009-12. This is where a teacher spends the summer working for the NPS and then teaches a unit on their experience during National Parks Week in April.