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The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

LHS student council decorates tree for annual Festival of Trees fundraiser

Students renew LHS’ tradition of donating a tree to be auctioned off in the city-wide fundraiser
Eliza Naumann
The LHS tree was decorated by multiple classes, who made ornaments.

An old Lawerence High tradition is back and bigger than ever. 

This year, Student Council decorated and donated its very own LHS-themed Christmas tree to the Lawrence Festival of Trees, a tradition dating back nearly thirty years. 

The event has been a service in which various teachers and student groups have participated, each collectively purchasing a tree and decorating it for donation to the festival. The proceeds from the event help support O’Connell Children’s Shelter (previously The Shelter, Inc.), a foster and youth shelter serving northeast Kansas. 

Retired LHS teacher David Platt was instrumental in promoting the fundraiser at LHS throughout the years. As student council advisor, teacher, and geography club sponsor, he ensured that each year Lawrence High had a tree to donate. To him, the service and its beneficiary were incredibly valuable.

“What we continued to think over the years is this is a really good intro service project to engage students at the high school that makes a difference at the community level as well,” Platt said. 

When Platt retired in 2022, the tradition was faltering. This year, he decided to bring it back. 

He suggested the donation to a few student council members including Emily Brandt, student body co-president. Crucially, he offered to provide the tree if Student Council would decorate it. 

“We thought it was a great idea,” Brandt said. 

Decorating was a group effort. Multiple classes at LHS donated ornaments, and the student council gathered to decorate and deliver the red and black themed tree, which made it to the festival intact, though not without some setbacks. Brandt said the day did not end without a trip to the hardware store. 

“It was definitely a whole extravaganza,” she said. 

Ultimately, the tradition’s purpose was not forgotten. Platt emphasizes the proximity of O’Connell Childrens Shelter. 

“It directly ties into families that are served by Lawrence Public Schools,” he said. 

A tree at the festival was decorated with a Taylor Swift reference.

And he’s right. Shannon Livingston, a clinical specialist at the shelter, works closely with the festival each year. She explained the fundraiser’s impact.

“All the proceeds go directly to fund our programming and the youth we serve,” she said. 

That programming includes five group homes for youth in foster care, foster care prevention services, truancy diversion, mentoring for older youth getting ready for college, and more. Livingston said that supporting these programs also means supporting the practical needs of the children in their care. 

“Say a youth needs certain clothing for an activity at school,” she said. Or the shelter needs to buy furniture, “so they have good beds to sleep in.” The impact is undeniably significant. 

Moreover, O’Connell’s programming reflects their commitment to serving the community. 

“There’s no other agency that has five group homes that serve youth in foster care,” Livingston said. “When you’re talking about keeping kids in school, keeping them on the right path, that only positively influences the community.” 

This year, Lawrence High School’s tree was auctioned for $700. And it was one of over 70 trees. The festival had their biggest year yet. 

“It’s cool how it all came together,” Platt said. “And it still comes around and serves the students.”

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About the Contributors
Ashlyn Tell, Reporter
I'm a first-year writer on the journalism staff. Outside of journalism, I love to ride my bike, cook, and spend time with friends.
Eliza Naumann, Photographer
I'm a second-year photographer on the journalism staff. When I'm not taking pictures, I'm working at PetWorld, playing tennis, or crocheting in my free time.

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