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story.lead_photo.caption Keirra Wilson, left, and Andronae Johnson spread mulch in one of the islands adjacent Washington Park Ice Arena. They were just two of the several dozen freshmen to participate in Friday's Lincoln University Day of Service in conjunction with the United Way of Central Missouri. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Just a week after arriving on campus, scores of incoming Lincoln University freshmen fanned out across Jefferson City to work on projects.

Lincoln University and the United Way of Central Missouri partner on service projects every year as part of the annual Day of Service. During the day, students volunteer for numerous community agencies and nonprofit organizations.

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Possibly more than normal this year, Washington Park needed some sprucing up. The park was underwater for much of the summer because of widespread flooding. Piles of cedar mulch and stacks of rakes, pitchforks and shovels lay waiting for them as a couple dozen young women arrived at the park early Friday morning. They set right to work, spreading the cedar on the planter islands around the park's parking lots.

Keirra Wilson, 19, from East St. Louis, Illinois, scooped the mulch up and tossed it about as if she'd done it all her life, although she hadn't.

It's not much different than work she does back home, she said.

"It's just like raking leaves and moving snow off the concrete when you're trying to get to your place in winter," Wilson said.

Octoria Ridenhour, Lincoln University assistant director of student engagement, used a pitchfork to pull large mounds of mulch out of a sizable pile, and moved it around on an island.

"I think this pile keeps getting higher," she groaned.

But, she continued to spread it.

"Look at us — making a difference," Ridenhour told her help.

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Friday's event was the fifth consecutive year for the project.

Ray Wallace, Jefferson City Parks resource supervisor of forestry, said staff look forward to the help every year.

"You guys have been great," Wallace said. "Some years, it's not so good."

He remembered one year when students showed up — ill-prepared and wearing flip-flops.

A student Friday teased him and said one of the reasons she was earning a higher education was so she could find a job where she didn't have to work so hard.

That may not help, he replied.

"I went to school," he said, "but am still doing that back-breaking work."

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