Anne Chamberlin, left, a member of the Cemetery Ladies group in Canton, works Friday with Dirigo High School students Emily Woods and Nathaniel Wainwright cleaning a gravestone at Pine Grove Cemetery in Canton. Sixteen students from the high school chose to spend their second annual Caring Cougars Day working at the cemetery. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

CANTON — Dirigo High School students Skylar O’Connor and Maddy Huggins scraped dirt and lichens from a gravestone at Pine Grove Cemetery on Friday, saying they find the work calming.

The two are among 16 juniors who chose to spend Caring Cougars Day, a schoolwide, student-led day of service, working at the cemetery.

Teacher and student advisor Rebecca Fletcher wrote in an email prior to the service day that students work with their homeroom groups and advisers to decide an area of need in the community.

“The students then reach out to members in the community to make connections and formulate their plan,” she wrote. “They organize their roles for the day and determine what is needed. Then they execute the plan on Caring Cougars Day.”

“The goals of Caring Cougars Day include creating positive relationships between our school and the community; forming stronger bonds between advisees, their peers, and their advisers; developing empathy in all of us; and providing service for the community,” Fletcher said.

Besides working at Pine Grove Cemetery in Canton, students worked at over a dozen locations. They included people’s homes, Boondock’s Farm in Canton, Dixfield Historical Society, classrooms, playgrounds and surrounding trails of Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, Norlands Living History Center in Livermore and Mt. Blue State Park in Weld.


Dirigo High School students Maddy Huggins, left, and Skylar O’Connor clean gravestones Friday at Pine Grove Cemetery in Canton during Caring Cougars Day. Other students went to over a dozen locations to do community service projects in Dixfield, Livermore, Weld and Farmington. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

For many students at Pine Grove Cemetery, it was a return to the site where they worked last year. Dakota White and David Searles worked with Robyn McClintock, who guided them in leveling and resetting cemetery headstones.

McClintock is one of the town’s Cemetery Ladies, along with Carole Robbins and Anne Chamberlin. The three regularly keep the town’s cemeteries clean and in good repair.

Robbins and Chamberlin were guiding students Friday, showing them how to use wooden skewers, old plastic credit cards, and other tools along with a special solution that cleans stones without damaging them.

Jenn Bell, a student adviser, said the service work is important for students to feel connected to community.

“I think a lot of people have a perception about teenagers, that they don’t care about anything but TikTok and when you work with teenagers, and you get to see them every day, you know that’s not the case. So, I think it’s really good for the community to see that kids do care,” Bell said.

Dirigo High School students David Searles, left, and Dakota White prepare Friday to level and reset gravestones at Pine Grove Cemetery in Canton during the second annual Caring Cougars Day. Other students did community service projects in Dixfield, Livermore, Weld and Farmington. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

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