Centre’s After School Program students create ornaments for National Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration
In the spirit of fellowship that marks the holiday season, Centre College’s After School Program, in partnership with the Danville Community Arts Center and the National Park Foundation, was chosen to create the ornaments for Kentucky’s Christmas tree in the Pathway of Peace, which leads to the White House’s National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.
The Pathway of Peace, located in President’s Park, is made up of smaller Christmas trees representing each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia, and each year select groups are asked to create one-of-a-kind ornaments to adorn their respective tree symbolizing the history, heritage and culture of their homelands.
The After School Program is led by Centre students and serves children of local immigrant and migrant families for whom English is their second language. They are funded in large part by Centro Latino, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building quality relationships between Spanish speakers and the general Danville community in terms of education, healthcare and social justice.
Gretchen Hines-Ward, education director of Danville’s Community Arts Center, received a grant from the National Parks Foundation (NPF) to help design and create the ornaments. Middle school students from both Centro Latino and Centre’s After School Program participated and were the only group in the Commonwealth selected to contribute to the tree.
“With funding from the NPF, the Community Arts Center and the Kentucky Latino Education Alliance, Gretchen hired artists and purchased the supplies,” explains Associate Professor of Spanish Genny Ballard, who serves as faculty sponsor of the After School Program. “Twenty students from Mercer and Boyle counties created the ornaments over the course of three one-hour classes. They had help and guidance from the artists and Centre students.”
Traci Thompson, one of the artists who worked with the students, came up with an ornament concept she believes encapsulates the essence of Kentucky (pictured below).
“The iconic image of a cardinal, the state bird, in the snow was the initial inspiration,” says Thompson of the ornaments, which featured papier-mâche cardinals on a bed of cotton snow inside clear globes. “The students enjoyed developing a unique personality for each bird as the project progressed. They were thrilled that their ornaments were going to be ‘sent to the President’ and seen by so many people in Washington, D.C.”
The ornaments debuted on the Kentucky tree during the National Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 4. This year marks the 92nd anniversary of the National Christmas Tree Lighting, an American tradition that began in 1923 under President Calvin Coolidge and continues to bring citizens together to celebrate hope and peace during the holiday season.
Ballard says that working with the Arts Center on programs like this “remind us that we are all part of the same community.”
“It’s always good to reach out and get to know people who aren’t like you. The middle school students and the Centre student volunteers come from a wide array of backgrounds including different ages, ethnicities, races, genders and religions. Working with people of different backgrounds brings you fresh ideas and different perspectives,” Ballard says. “It raises your cultural awareness and helps you understand different points of view, which is a major goal of education. Everyone involved had lots of other ways they could spend their Saturday mornings for a month, but they all chose to spend it on creative endeavors.”
Anne-Ward Arbegust ’15 leads the After School Program and found this opportunity especially meaningful.
“This program cares so much for this growing and talented population, and it is fitting that they are being included in our national community in such a special way,” says Arbegust. “Our work to provide students opportunities they might not otherwise have is the perfect example of how Centre and the surrounding community have pooled resources and support to make these experiences a reality,” she adds.
A duplicate tree featuring the ornaments created by the After School Program students is on display at the Community Arts Center in Danville.
by Hayley Hoffman ’16 and Caitlan Cole
Top photo courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov.
Photos on right courtesy of Community Arts Center.