Eagle Eye on Education: National Honor Society leading efforts to restore Memorial Grove at high school

ThisWeek group

New Albany High School has launched a fundraising campaign to restore Memorial Grove, a community space on the school’s campus dedicated to the remembrance of students, faculty and residents.

Related story:Students will cultivate effort to restore high school's Memorial Grove

After two decades, the original grove has undergone a series of structural issues, including flooding and erosion, leading to the high school's commitment to renovate it.

Tawfiq Mohammed is treasurer of the New Albany High School chapter of the National Honor Society.

The new design will feature an entrance wall, outdoor risers, a cement pathway, benches, an array of trees and bushes and will contain memorial plaques and bricks to commemorate lost loved ones in our learning community.

This renovated space is expected to cost approximately $110,000, and the National Honor Society chapter at the high school is leading the fundraising efforts as a service project. We are determined to raise the funds through the generosity of our community.

The officers for the New Albany High School chapter of the National Honor Society are (from left) Kaan Odabas, secretary of tutoring; Tawfiq Mohammed, treasurer; Olivia Herman, vice president; Nora Bounemany, secretary of hours; Danna Long, historian; and Max Little, president.

To better understand the importance of Memorial Grove, we connected with Rob Donaldson, the original and current designer, and Lori Cheney, a teacher who has been teaching at New Albany High School since the original grove was built.

We started our conversation by addressing the Memorial Grove's beginnings. 

The grove was started as a senior seminar project by a student named James Knapp. He partnered with Donaldson, who was at the Ohio State University studying architecture at the time, to help him develop a blueprint for the grove and make it a reality.

Donaldson shared fond and interesting memories of the many days that were spent during the spring of 1998 laying the foundation, including striking a water main line. Their memories of the grove called back to a simpler time when our fledgling community had a graduating class of only 53 students.

The duo established the grove at a very harrowing time for New Albany, as the school had lost one of its most beloved teachers, Dave Dreisbach.

Knapp recognized the need for a place to recognize community members who had passed. He believed Memorial Grove could be the space that would accomplish this need. Over time, this has remained a core sentiment, as the grove displayed a range of memorial bricks and plaques in honor of those from our community  who have passed.

On an introspective level, Cheney remarked about how it provides us with a space to "take a pause, remember where you're at, and reestablish where you want to go in life.”

With the current distractors of social media and technology, she emphasized the importance of this space providing a layer of peace and calm to the high school campus.

Regarding the area itself, Memorial Grove is a space that is "meant to be used and meant to be enjoyed," according to Cheney. The refurbished grove, like the previous one, will be used by classes at the high school, whether it be an English class acting out a scene from "Julius Caesar" or a biology class studying the vegetation.

After school hours, the grove will be accessible to everyone in the community to utilize and enjoy while visiting the school campus, as many residents often do.

Thus far, more than $41,000 has been raised through community donation and funds provided by the New Albany-Plain Local School District. The National Honor Society chapter hopes to raise more funds through continued community outreach, corporate donations, grant opportunities and a virtual 5K, which will be held from March 27 to April 17.

From the original space to the updated design, the Memorial Grove cherishes the legacies left behind by former New Albany students and staff, celebrating their values and accomplishments. It reflects upon the community's past while also guiding our New Albany community into the future.

To learn more about the Memorial Grove or to support our student service project to honor those we have lost at New Albany High School, please visit our Memorial Grove webpage at napls.us/memorialgrove.

Tawfiq Mohammed, treasurer of the New Albany High School chapter of the National Honor Society, submitted this column on behalf of the other officers of the chapter.