Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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April 23, 2014

Tree honor runs deep — Maysville’s grade school was a good place for some learning, namely about trees as students and others gathered Monday to celebrate one of their own taking the top prize in a statewide Arbor Week contest.

With a large group of fellow students looking on it was Maysville fifth-grader Taylor Hillis who was honored for winning first place in a poster contest meant to teach students about the importance of trees.

“Awesome” was the way Taylor’s parents, Susie and Chad Hillis, described the honor as the contest winner, along with her brother, Seth Hillis, teamed up with shovels to help plant a tree on the school’s playground before other Maysville students joined in the fun.

“This year we had over 500 kids participate in the contest and Taylor, her poster won it,” said Jera Irby, staff forester and education coordinator with the Oklahoma Forestry Services.

“We’re here today to honor Taylor and plant a tree on your school grounds.”

Helping out was a crew from OG&E, which offered a few tips on planting and donated the elm tree used in Monday’s ceremony.

The poster contest is sponsored by Oklahoma Forestry Services, the U.S. Forest Service and the Oklahoma Urban and Community Forestry Council, Inc.

“The whole purpose of the contest is to get Oklahoma school children aware of Arbor Week, which has been around since before statehood,” Irby added.

“We also want to encourage more tree planting at their schools or neighborhoods.”

It was in March when the young Hillis was among the top three students in the contest who were invited for a dinner and special tree planting ceremony at the governor’s mansion in Oklahoma City.

It was at this event a little over a month ago where Taylor was named the contest’s winner.

Teacher Janet Little led the project at the Maysville school.

“This contest was about the importance of trees and their beauty,” Little said.

“She did a painting,” she said about the local contest winner. “The theme was ‘Trees are interesting in all shapes and sizes.’ She painted the trees in a fall setting. They framed her poster, and I think it’s hanging on her wall at home.

“Taylor’s very gifted, conscientious, obviously artistic.”

During Monday’s event Hillis was given $100 in prize money sponsored by Merchants Bank of Maysville and a formal citation from state Sen. Susan Paddack.

Little also received a $75 gift card.

The Maysville teacher also praised all of her other students.

“They give me their all and accept a challenge,” she added.

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