ACTrees Announces National Student Essay Contest Winners

“What Did the Tree See?” 5th and 6th Grade 2012 ‘Green Heart’ Awards Presented

College Park, MD (April 15, 2013) – Alliance for Community Trees and its partner Treetures® Environmental Education Program are pleased to announce the winners of its first “What Did the Tree See?” national essay contest. In this pilot year, the contest garnered nearly 100 essays and poems which were judged by a national panel of authors, and urban forest and environmental education experts.

Drawing by third place winner Emma Y. Cho, 5th grade, Pleasant Hill Elementary School, Winfield, Illinois.

Drawing by third place winner Emma Y. Cho, 5th grade, Pleasant Hill Elementary School, Winfield, Illinois.

“This contest offers a unique opportunity for ACTrees member organizations to work with schools in their area to teach 5th and 6th grade students the value of urban trees and how they affect the neighborhood and the local environment,” says Carrie Gallagher, ACTrees Executive Director.

Participants were part of a national pilot program in which ACTrees member organizations reached out to elementary schools in their state to encourage students to write about a tree in their community, its science, and history from the point of view of the tree. The essay contest will become an annual program for ACTrees through our partnership with Treetures®. The contest was sponsored by CSX.

“Earning one’s ‘Green Heart’ is the term used by the Treetures® Program to help define the process of learning to plant and care for trees, a process best begun with young children,” says Judith Blau, Director, Founder of Treetures®. “These essay winners truly revealed their Green Hearts.”

Congratulations to the 2012 national winners:

First Place

  • 5th Grade (Tie): James Tews, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic School, Aurora, Illinois (The Morton Arboretum), and Trevor Martin Wise, Leo Elementary School, Leo, Indiana (Hoosier ReLeaf)
  • 6th Grade: Kaleigh Mann, Ohio County Elementary/Middle School, Rising Sun, Indiana (Hoosier ReLeaf)

Second Place

  • 5th Grade: Srija Thipirneni, Frank M. Hammond School, Munster, Indiana (Hoosier ReLeaf).
  • 6th Grade: Kyle Prochotsky, Hawthorne Middle School North, Vernon Hills, Illinois (The Morton Arboretum)

Third Place

  • 5th Grade: is Emma Cho, Pleasant Hill Elementary School, Winfield, Illinois (The Morton Arboretum)
  •  6th Grade: Keenan Petty Jr., Merrillville Intermediate School, Merrillville, Indiana (Keep It Moving)

Honorable Mention

  •  Vivienne Overstreet, Beverly Cleary/Fernwood School, Portland, Oregon (Urban Forestry Commission)
  •  Narain Dubey, Beverly Cleary/Fernwood School, Portland, Oregon (Urban Forestry Commission)
  •  Liberty Chaney, Garret Middle School, Garret, Indiana (Hoosier ReLeaf)

First Place winners receive $500 and will participate in a tree planting in their honor at their school or in the neighborhood. Second place winners receive $250, and third place takes home $100. All award winners and honorable mentions will receive an award plaque acknowledging their national accomplishment. ACTrees member organizations will be involved in tree plantings and present winners with their awards at a local event.

Essay contest judges included nationally-recognized urban tree and tree care professionals and authors: Nina Bassuk Ph.D., Professor at Cornell University Horticulture Department/Program Leader of Urban Horticulture Institute, Ithaca, NY; Nanine Bilski, President/CEO and Founder of America the Beautiful Fund, Washington, DC; Cecily Kaiser, for Abrams Books Publishing Director, Abrams Appleseed, New York City, NY; Suzanne Presgrave, ACTrees Development Associate; Rita Schoeneman, Ph.D., RET U.S. Forest Service, Biology Professor at Ellsworth Community College, Iowa Falls, Iowa; and Audrey Bransfield, Student Judge, Sophomore Buckingham Browne and Nichols School, and award winning, published author, Newton, MA.

TreetureCompLogo_ 300CAbout Treetures
Treetures® Environmental Education Program ( is a national environmental initiative dedicated to tree education. With their partners, Treetures® promotes activities and education centered on tree planting and care. The illustrated Treetures® family of characters, each representing a scientific concept, are used by teachers, parents, and communities to engage children in grades K-5.

About Alliance for Community Trees
Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and livability of cities by planting and caring for trees. With over 200 member and partner organizations in 44 states and Canada, ACTrees engages volunteers to take action to improve the environment where 93% of people live: in cities, towns, and metropolitan areas. Together ACTrees member organizations have planted and cared for more than 15 million trees with help from over 5 million volunteers. Learn more about our mission at