High school students working to promote Tonopah’s history

Local teens are leading efforts to bring the town’s history alive, an initiative that would build on the town’s ongoing push to tout the community as a tourist destination.

As part of their computer literature class at Tonopah High School, the students are behind an effort to create a brochure/map of the historic Old Tonopah Cemetery adjacent to the Clown Motel. A YouTube video and internet components also are planned.

Under the supervision of teacher Tom Whelan and town staffer Shari Bombard and backed by the Tonopah Town Board, a TravelNevada state grant is being sought.

The town board voted 5-0 on Jan. 25 to apply for the grant to support the student effort. That includes pledging up to $1,100 in town room-tax tourism promotion money as matching funds for the proposed state grant.

Two students, Bryan Fossett and Shelby Jones, joined Bombard in explaining the initiative to the town board.

“There are a lot of interesting stories about that cemetery, but there is nothing for tourists who go to visit to actually look at,” Bombard said, when it comes to detailed factual information on the cemetery and those who are buried there.

“We are researching the graves, and the students are creating the brochure,” said Bombard, who organized a pre-Halloween historic-themed “ghost walk” in the cemetery this past October.

“What we’re planning on doing is picking out eight to 10 really great stories, really interesting stories and things like that,” she told the town board of the cemetery history effort.

Fossett, 15, said the brochure would refer visitors to a website. “So when they come up (to the cemetery), they can select a video with background information and a little history on each person (gravesite),” he said.

Jones said that in all, 11 or 12 students are involved in the ongoing efforts. “We’re putting all of our work together,” she said. “It is going to be really good when we’re done with it.”

The brochures would be used for walk-through tours of the cemetery.

“Really, it’s incredibly inexpensive,” Bombard said of brochure costs. “The majority of the cost to the town is being absorbed by their (students’) work, by their contribution to the project.”

The brochures would be available throughout the town, including at hotels.

“So people (tourists) could say, ‘Let’s go down there and check this out! Oh, maybe we want to see it at night. Maybe we need to stay the night,’” Bombard said.

She praised the quality of the students’ work.

“I can say that after hanging out and spending the time with these kids, I was incredibly impressed with the level of professionalism. One of the videos they have done, they have the voiceover, they have the music. It’s amazing.”

“I think it will rival professional videos by the time it is all said and done,” Bombard said.

Many of the students are freshmen.

“I can’t imagine what they’re going to be like when they’re in college or when they’re adults,” said Bombard, who envisions future opportunities for entities in town to work with the students.

Town board members praised the efforts, which gives the students hands-on experience with skills such as writing and researching.

“It is really nice to see you young people here tonight,” member Roni Link said. “Thank you for coming and sharing your idea with us.”

Chairman Duane Downing said: “I absolutely love this idea. The historic cemetery is a wealth of information.”

Bombard said: “It could definitely turn into a much bigger project. This could be just a stepping stone.”

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@tonopahtimes.com