More than 200 trees are now growing in our community thanks to a student-led project called SMSD for Trees.
Trees were planted this spring in celebration of Global Youth Service Day. The tree-planting event brought together more than 300 volunteers, with students from Shawnee Mission South, Shawnee Mission East, Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Earth First Club and Kansas City Christian.
Harley Witbrod and Chase Horner, seniors from Shawnee Mission South and National Honor Society members, co-founded the effort with two objectives, Witbrod said. As members of National Honor Society, they wanted a project that would engage youth in service and promote togetherness in the outdoors. They engaged in raising funds, connecting volunteers, and seeing the entire idea put into reality.
On April 24, they were joined by student and community volunteers, and their NHS Sponsor and teacher Travis Gatewood who helped plant 223 trees.
“The trees will ultimately serve as reminders to their planters and symbols throughout the community of unity and collaboration, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19,” Witbrod expressed.
Witbrod said the entire process helped the student leaders to grow intellectually and personally. The project required learning the intricacies of spreadsheets, logistics of long-term planning, engaging members of the community, and leadership.
“It was a really awesome experience seeing a tangible result of all of the hours of hard work we put in when all of the trees had been loaded and driven out,” Witbrod added.
Witbrod and Horner extend thanks for multiple community organizations that provided grants and donations to support the project, including the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation. They also received grants from the Rotary Club, South Foundation, Prairie Village Tree Board, and the Overland Park Tree Board.
“We are thankful for all the community has done for us, especially the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation and community donors,” Witbrod said. “SMSD for Trees began as a project put on for our community, but turned out to be a project put on by our community.”