SMSD for Trees

300+ students band together to plant 223 trees across 36 schools, 11 parks, and 10 cities.

Annie Caswell, Reporter

Last year Chase Horner and Harley Witbrod set out on a mission to improve the environment by planting trees throughout the Johnson County area. What started as a simple task of planting 50 trees has turned into a district-wide project called SMSD For Trees. 

After finding inspiration for the project from a nearby park, Horner and Witbrod sat down over winter break to work out a planting schedule and to contact tree nurseries. Months of planning and a “hundred”emails Horner’s exaggeration- later the two settled on  

“After communicating a lot we decided on Forrest Keeling which is a tree nursery up in St. Louis and we’re getting our trees from them for about 70 dollars. They were also super helpful and giving us information and giving us nice discounts and just walking us through the whole process and everything,” Horner said.

Horner and Witbrod originally planned on hosting the project on April 24 of 2020.  The pandemic, which caused the volunteer work to be deemed unsafe, moved the project back a year later to April 24 2021 which happens to be Global Youth Service day and two days after Earth Day.

“And so it’s also kind of participating in something bigger than yourself on a day when there’s thousands of students, across the world, contributing something positive that weekend,” NHS sponsor Travis Gatewood, said. 

Even though the project is full steam ahead now, getting there wasn’t easy. Over two years, hundreds of hours were spent researching tree species and reviewing tree nursery suppliers as well as correcting mistyped information that had to do with scheduling. Part of the time was spent working with cities and schools to pick the species of trees they wanted to plant. The back and forth communication led to misunderstandings such as a tree nursery would be out of a certain type of tree that a city selected and Horner and Witbrod would have to go back and change the information. 

Horner and Witbrod are planting twenty one different species of trees at fifty one different locations including thirty six schools and fifteen parks. Horner and Witbrod are still looking for volunteers to help with planting.

“If you want to volunteer you can email us at [email protected] and we can find something for you to do,” Witbrod said.