Campus News

UK Ag Equine Programs’ Students and Partners Give Back During Spring Into Service day

Volunteers at the Spring into Service event spruce up the landscaping at African Cemetery No. 2 in Lexington. Photo by Steve Patton, UK agricultural communications.
Volunteers at the Spring into Service event spruce up the landscaping at African Cemetery No. 2 in Lexington. Photo by Steve Patton, UK Agricultural Communications.

LEXINGTON, Ky.  (April 29, 2021) — University of Kentucky Ag Equine Programs, in conjunction with the UK chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), hosted a student-driven Spring into Service event at the African Cemetery No. 2 in Lexington. The day of service was sponsored by Central Kentucky Ag Credit.  

“Spring into Service was a unique event that allowed us to learn about the African American heritage within the equine community and also allowed our students to give back to the local community,” said Kristen Wilson, academic coordinator within UK’s Equine Science and Management undergraduate degree program and advisor for the program’s student leadership team, the Wildcat Wranglers. 

The community service event, coordinated by the Wildcat Wranglers, contributed to the upkeep and overall enhancement of the local cemetery. The same student team planned and organized the inaugural Equine Week of Service during the Fall 2020 semester. That story is available at and on YouTube at

The old Benevolent Society No. 2 Cemetery, now known as African Cemetery No. 2, was originally established in a rural setting, according to the cemetery’s website. It is in the process of being preserved and restored. 

The cemetery was the first burial site of Isaac Burns Murphy, winner of three Kentucky Derbys and the first African American inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1955. It also holds the remains of Oliver Lewis, the jockey who won the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875; Abraham Perry, the trainer of Joe Cotton, winner of the Kentucky, Tennessee, Coney Island and five other derby races in 1885; and James “Soup” Perkins, who tied a record as being the youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in 1895. More information about the cemetery can be found at

The service event brought together more than 50 student, alumni, faculty and staff volunteers for a day to clean up and make landscaping improvements to the property. 

“The first shift of the day focused on picking up all sticks and debris from the eight acres. The second shift focused on weeding the main flower beds and weeding around the many trees on the property. The third shift focused on putting new mulch in all flower beds and around all trees — we called it Mulch Madness,” said Grace Camp, a Wildcat Wrangler student and event co-chair. “Overall, the event was a big success that allowed students and faculty to come and volunteer their time on a beautiful day and also learn about the history and importance of the cemetery within our community.” 

“This was by far one of the best organized and hardest working group of students who have ever volunteered in the cemetery and their efforts show in the improvements to the grounds they made during their visit. We are deeply appreciative of their efforts,” said Mark Coyne, African Cemetery No. 2 chair and a faculty member within the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. 

“My sentiments center on pride for our students and program together with admiration for the broad historical foundation of horses — thoroughbreds, saddlebreds, standardbreds and, more recently, all breeds — in the cultural and agricultural heritage of Kentucky,” said James MacLeod, director of UK Ag Equine Programs and John S. and Elizabeth A. Knight Chair within the Gluck Equine Research Center. 

According to Camp, the Wildcat Wranglers look forward to putting on a service-oriented project each semester and are excited to pursue a partnership in the future with the African Cemetery No. 2. Their now annual Week of Service, held during the fall semester, is scheduled for Oct. 4-11, 2021.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.