NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Norfolk Academy eighth graders lent a helping hand on Wednesday morning. They helped clean up and beautify Calvary Cemetery, a historically African-American cemetery.

The students are volunteering through their school's "PAWS" program. It's a day where the Bulldogs "pause" their day to help out the community. While getting their hands dirty mulching, students also learned about Calvary's deep history which is seeded in segregation.

Established in 1877, the cemetery was the burial ground for Norfolk African-Americans. According to the city, there were no other burial options for blacks until the mid 1970s. It's a moment in history that Valerie Spektor has thought long and hard about.

"It is kind of sad, but things have changed, and I'm really glad that they're trying to make everything look nice," she said. "It's a mark in history to remind us not to make our same mistakes."

It's that deep conversation and reflection that teacher Toy Savage is trying to harvest. "I'd like them to walk away with knowing that this place is every bit as noble as any other place is,"

He said it's important that student also understand the value of giving back to a society that had so much taken from them.

"It's trying to get to the kids that part of what comes with their gig is that they get to give back, and they have to give back," he said.