Ogden City is an officially designated “Tree City”. To earn its designation the city must spend $2/capita on trees annually and sponsor an Arbor Day celebration. For the past several years, Ogden Preparatory Academy has been Ogden’s Arbor Day celebration. Under the direction of Monte Stewart and his fabulous team of tree specialists, we are the celebration’s cast and crew. We dig the holes, plant the trees, and spread the mulch. We listen respectfully to the VIP’s that address us at the official ceremony and we applaud politely when they finish speaking. We also gratefully and enthusiastically eat the boxes and boxes (and boxes) of pizza they provide for lunch. It is all good. ALL GOOD.
I tell my students planting trees on Arbor Day is an earned privilege; they must work hard to get the opportunity to work hard. “Make no mistake,” I tell them. “We are going to work hard. You will be digging holes and moving rocks. You will get dirty and you will not complain. If you don’t want to work, don’t come.” I also tell them that being Ogden’s Arbor Day cast and crew is an tribute to those students who have gone before, that we are invited back each year because we are respectful, responsible, high quality people. “I expect you to honor our tradition,” I challenge them. And I promise them unlimited pop and pizza for lunch.
Interested students are required to write a 200-300 word essay telling me why I should choose them to participate in the Arbor Day celebration and how they will behave if chosen. Seventy-two (about 80% of my students) applied. Following are excerpts from a few of their applications:
“I have an apple tree in my back of my house. So I am experienced in the field of planting trees.”
“I will not use the shovel inn correctly.”
“I’m not the best student in class but on field trips I behave. I know how to take this seriously.”
“I have matured which means I would be safer and smarter if I was chosen to do this activity with you”
“I have no experience with gardening/tree planting. I have never done anything like this before.”
“I have never dug a hole so it will be a good experience for me.”
“‘Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.’ I am a leader. I can behave myself. I will be cheerful as usual but not as hyper and eccentric.”
“I will make sure to be a great OPA representative for my school and to make sure that we are allowed to participate in this project for years to come.”
“You could say I’m the Lorax cause I speak for the trees.”
“I will also be very grateful for the free food and make sure not to start any food fights.”
“I want to grow up and make a difference in the world.”
“Please Let Me Go.”
“I never planted a tree before but I hope it is fun.”
“I can dig nice holes with my masculine muscles”
“I am in weight training class and I am really strong.”
“I feel like it’ll be a rad thing to tell my other friends and family.”
“I should be selected because I love Mrs. Hislop.”
“I’ll be on my best behavior. I promise. If not, I’ll let you style my hair the way you’d like.”
“I think you should let me go to arbor day with you because I am a good guy.”
“I understand my behavior has a direct effect on how Ogden Preparatory Academy is represented and viewed by the public since we will be in a public area. I take pride in my school and will not do anything to ruin our good name.”
“Planting trees is one big recycling project”
“I will feel like a blue collar worker even though I might not look and/or even be one, it will still seem fun to me.”
“The city trusts us with planting trees for them and I really want to prove them right.”
“Hopefully this essay is enough so please let me go and if you do thank you so much. (I really mean it.)”
“I will act good because there is no reason to be bad when your given the opportunity to go somewhere and enjoy the environment and help out.”
“I always follow the rules and almost never break them.”
“I am going to surprise you with how hard I work.”
Oh man, I love these kids!!
They did not surprise me with how hard they worked because I know and love them. But I think many people would have been surprised; the general public has no idea how wonderful teen-agers are. The kids worked hard. HARD. And it was hard work. And cold.
Arbor Day 2017 was cloud-covered and cold-plagued. The breeze was not fierce but it was chilly and cutting. At one point snow flurried around us and periodically throughout the day we could see our breath. Brrrrrr! Many of the teens were in shorts (no surprise) and few (maybe none) were adequately prepared for the cold. However all of them, all, worked hard.
I was not surprised by how hard they worked. Nor was I surprised that several wore shorts. I was surprised, however, by the “First Annual Golden Lorax Award” given to me at the official ceremony. I mention it only because Monte’s post-presentation conversation was so endearing and the plaque itself so perfect for me.
“Did I spell your name right,” he asked. “I told my wife at 3:00 this morning that I feared I had messed up. ‘How do you spell Teresa?’ I asked her. ‘Are there 2 r’s? 2 s’s?’ I was so afraid I’d spelled it wrong.” Endearing.
He also told me the plaque was re-purposed. “We found a box in our storage shed at the BDO that had a bunch of plaques it in. So we took one, sanded it down, and put your name on it. It was in shed 13B. You should write it on the back.” [I did.] Perfect for me.
Such was Arbor Day 2017. Endearing. And perfect for me.
May OPA’s Arbor Day tree planting tradition live forever…..or at least as long as a Sequoia tree!
[NOTE: Student photos are published with parental consent.]