The smiles say everything

May 18, 2012 Planting at Community Transitional School
Pizza time at the Community Transitional School

By Gustavo Rojas

Friends of Trees has planted hundreds of thousands of trees in the Portland-Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield areas, and the benefits they bring to our communities are obvious and visible. But sometimes the impact is not as easy to measure, like bringing a smile to a kid who may not always feel like smiling.

We recently participated in a planting with the Community Transitional School, a school for kids whose families are homeless and are experiencing poverty-related challenges. The kids are from five to 14 years old and live in homeless and domestic violence shelters, inexpensive hotels, on the floor of a friend’s home, or outside in their cars. The purpose of the school is to provide them with a stable, supportive environment that promotes both their personal and academic growth.

May 18, 2012 Planting at Community Transitional School
Community Transitional School student, Officer Rico, and FOT's Elizabeth Elbel & Gustavo Rojas

Portland Police Officer Julia Rico, who works with the Portland Police Bureau’s G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education And Training) program, which teaches kids about gang prevention and partners with the Community Transitional School, contacted Friends of Trees about the possibility of planting a tree at the school.

On planting day, it was raining buckets, and Neighborhood Trees Specialist Elizabeth Elbel and I were afraid the kids wouldn’t want to go out in the field to plant. But we were pleasantly surprised when they all got out in the rain and started to dig enthusiastically.

One of them, Kailanie, wrote us a thank-you letter:

“I really enjoyed planting the tree in the rain even though it was hard work. I think the funnest part was planting the tree because we got to use team work and that’s always important. The hardest part was digging the hole for the tree. I hope you guys can come back again so we can plant another tree together.”

We certainly will. Thank you for all your hard work, and especially for your beautiful smiles.

–Rojas is a Neighborhood Trees Assistant with Friends of Trees.