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Agriculture students construct memorial for Normal Community High School

Students build NCHS patio

David Kopsell decided to create a circular patio and bench with the names of each student etched into the three center stones of the patio.

Fourteen Illinois State University students gathered with horticulture professor David Kopsell, Normal Community High School faculty members Mike Roller and Scott Froelich, and Changing Seasons Landscaping on November 8 to construct a memorial for three NCHS students that passed away during the 2008–2009 school year.

Kopsell worked with Roller, Froelich, and NCHS principal Dave Bollmann to come up with a meaningful hardscape design to remember Kirbie Brittain, Rachel Vincent, and Michelle Wilbourn.

Last fall, Kopsell’s previous urban landscape management class completed another hardscape project for NCHS. Roller and Froelich came to Kopsell after this project with $2,000 that had been collected on behalf of Brittain, Vincent, and Wilbourn to construct a memorial.

Kopsell decided to create a circular patio and bench with the names of each student etched into the three center stones of the patio. The cost estimate was over budget, but thankfully another class at NCHS pledged $1,000 to move forward with the project.

All semester, Kopsell’s urban landscape management was preparing for this hands-on experience.

“We have talked about the different kinds of tools needed, the steps required, and different paver patterns. We were also given other resources or handouts that talked about drainage when constructing landscaping projects and polymeric sand,” said Andrew Larson, a senior majoring in horticulture management and agriculture business.

“It’s extremely gratifying starting with a design and bringing it to life and creating it,” said Aaron Parish, horticulture management senior.

The day of installation, the families of each student being remembered were invited to place their child’s memorial stone during construction.

“Nothing compares to the feeling I got when I watched the reaction of our students to the families being there to lay the memorial stones … That more than anything meant the most to me, and I know it really showed our students the value of community service. This project was more than just building a patio,” said Kopsell.

Lannara Natyelle, an international student studying agronomy, agreed with Kopsell that her biggest takeaway from the project was receiving thanks from the family members of those lost.

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