Trevor Andrews, Reporter
Over the past four years, the Success Academy Middle School program has planted 106 trees in various parks across Grand Island.
Success Academy Principal Kenneth DeFrank said, “I had a kid named Francisco Lozano in 2019 who graduated that year and he recommended that we start planting trees.”
He added that their community partners are the city of Grand Island, Burry Burrows, Central Platte Natural Resource District with Marcia Lee, and then two ladies out at the Nebraska Forest Service and Arboretum, Kendal Weyers and Sarah Buckley.
“The first year we planted 33 trees; the second year we planted 22 trees down Grand Island Avenue, and last year we planted 19 trees at Pioneer Park, and this year we planted 32 trees at Cedar Hills Park and Ryder Park,” Defrank said.
“The city digs the holes for us, and then students learn from people who work with the city about trees and how to plant them correctly.” He added, “Kids work together in teams of three with one staff member and two kids.”
He said that they plant trees once a year for two to three hours.
“Trees are vital; they help produce oxygen and help the environment overall,” Defrank said.
He added that it’s important to replace trees after they begin to decay.
“What we’re trying to do with our partner, the city of Grand Island, is to try to develop a very diverse amount of trees for the city of Grand Island,” he said.
He added that they plant different varieties of oak, Kentucky coffee tree, and other trees that are native to Central Nebraska.
Defrank said that they planted trees in Eagle Scout Lake, Pier Park, Pioneer Park, Cedar Hill Park, Ryder Park, and on Grand Island Avenue
“Every year we plan on planting more trees. I hope they keep this project going long after I’m gone because I think it is a sustainable project, and it’s great for the kids to be engaging in the community,” Defrank said.
He said that one of the conversations they have with all the kids is that when they become grandparents, they can say, ‘I planted those trees; enjoy those trees.’
Defrank ended with, “I wanted to thank our partners, the city of Grand Island, Central Platte Natural Resource District, and the Nebraska Forest Service.”
Tanner Andrews, a former middle schooler at Success Academy said, “In Success we had to do short assignments, and then we’d go home early. I was on my final test and didn’t want to do it, but luckily they asked everyone if they wanted to go plant trees, and I decided to go.”
Andrews said he participated in planting trees about two years ago while he was in seventh grade.
“Unfortunately it was a really cold day,” he said.
He said that there were already holes dug out for the students before they got there.
“All we really had to do was take the saplings out of the pot, put them in the hole, spread out the roots, and then fill the hole with dirt,” he added.
“I probably planted around four trees myself,” Andrews said.
Andrews said that the Success Academy walked them through the process of planting a tree.
“After that we were split up into two groups of three, and a teacher would be right beside each group to show us how to do something just in case we forgot,” he added.
Andrews said he would definitely participate again if he got the chance because he believed it was fun.
“It’s not often where some random students like me are able to plant trees,” Andrews said.