Eighth-graders reconnect community with cemetery

CHARLES CITY — The incoming freshman class at Charles City High school will bring with it a resume like none before. For one thing, they reconnected a community to its cemetery.
Many of the eighth graders’ efforts were on display Friday at a community open house at Riverside Cemetery:

  • A drama troupe of eighth graders performed its short play about James Cullen’s death, the last lynching in Iowa, seven times in the cemetery chapel. The students researched and authored the play.
  • Student guides outside the chapel presented their research on and restoration plans for the chapel.
  • Stations throughout the cemetery presented other cemetery projects such as the nature trail, the stories of famous and infamous people in the cemetery, veterans memorial project, fundraising for a perpetual earn program and many more.


The Friday event concluded with all of the students and visitors encircling the unmarked graves of seven children who died in a diphtheria plague. The students dedicated a plaque.
“In the memory of the children who died in the diphtheria epidemic 1878-1879. Presented by the Class of 2021,” it says.
“We couldn’t have done this without a couple of things,” Ryan Rahmiller, eighth-grade teacher. “First of all, incredible kids. These kids are in a class by themselves. They’re unbelievable. They are going to challenge the high school in so many ways.

“Second, having Jeff (Sisson) … we couldn’t have done this without him.”

Students contacted him about local history and resources more than 1,000 times over the course of the project that began in the fall, Rahmiller said.

Rahmiller said that through the project students ventured into multiple content and skill areas and “practical life lessons.”