Art students from Harlem Middle School in Loves Park were chosen to create ornaments representing Illinois for the annual National Christmas Tree celebration in Washington D.C.
They had been working on the ornaments in secret since September. Their teacher, Ruth Meissen, said she chose 24 students for the 24 ornaments.
And she says it was up to them to decide what the design of the ornaments was going to be.
“It's not just representing our school, how do we represent our state?” said Meissen. “So we agreed on going with the white oak tree as one of the symbols of strength because that is a tree that, even though it's deciduous, does not drop many of its leaves in the winter. It’s a very hardy, a very strong tree.”
They even got to trace real leaves donated by the Klehm Arboretum in Rockford.
The over-5-inch wide ornaments are adorned with a slogan, “Peace and Joy from Illinois” along with a handmade heart pendant to convey compassion and give a nod to their hometown of Loves Park.
She says they decorated all of the ornaments with the same design so they could each work on all of them.
Meissen says they also wanted to make sure students who put in that much dedication had a chance to make the trip to D.C. to see their work displayed. Their work will be featured on one of 56 trees in President’s Park and in the White House visitor center.
To help cut costs for families, they’ve been fundraising, including starting a GoFundMe page. She said donations made a significant difference and helped pay for the bus and meals for students and parents.
“This has been such an incredible opportunity,” said Meissen. “By the way, the seating at the ceremony itself, at the tree lighting: the students are going to be in the front in the center, right where all the action is.”
The 18 Harlem students who could make the trip arrived in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.