Twenty Ceres first- through fifth-graders who entered the Smoky Bear & Woodsy the Owl Poster Contest were honored Friday afternoon with a visit by the two mascots who brought goodies and accolades.
A special ceremony was held for students in the After School Education and Safety (ASES) program inside the La Rosa Elementary School multi-purpose room.
The purpose of the poster contest - sponsored by the U.S. National Garden Clubs and sanctioned by the U.S. Forest Service - is to draw awareness to safe practices while in the woods and wildlands. During the La Rosa afterschool assembly three rangers talked about fire safety issues.
The poster contest was facilitated by the Ceres Garden Club. A total of 309 entries were submitted from the Ceres program.
Posters had to incorporate a theme and use either Smoky the Bear or Woodsy the Owl. La Rosa fourth-grader Isabel Jimenez submitted a poster that garnered her a third-place win at the state level.
Since La Rosa had the most winners, a special assembly was held there with students from other sites bussed in.
Two of the students submitted work that is taking them to the state level. Lilyana Juarez (who has since moved from Ceres) won first place among all first-graders in California.
Poster contest winners from La Rosa Elementary School were Lilyana Juarez, first grader; Ariyah Ross, second-grader; Isabel Jimenez, Rhianna Espinoza and Leigha Neilson, all fourth-graders; and fifth-grader Natali Torres.
Winners from Virginia Parks Elementary School were: Shi-Anne Woodard, fifth-grader; Jaesin Lee, second-grader; Deja Windham, second-grader; Michael Garcia, first-grader; Kaden Vang, third-grader; and Mikaela Canchola, fifth-grader.
Sam Vaughn Elementary School winners were Alexa Aquino, third grader; Diego Quintanilla, first-grader; and Leslie Vargas, fifth-grader.
Two winners came from Adkison Elementary School - Salvador Luquin, second grade; and third-grader Martin Gonzalez.
Don Pedro Elementary School produced a winning poster entry from first-grader Marlon Toribio Fuentes.
Patricia Kay Beaver School produced a winning poster from third-grader Isabella Ayala.
Sinclear Elementary School fourth-grader Kasandra Aguayo also was announced as a winner.
Mollie Day of the National Forest Service told the story of the real Smoky Bear, who was rescued from a New Mexico forest fire in 1950. The fire which burned the little cub was caused by a careless human. He was nursed back to health and remained at the National Zoo until his death in 1976. He was buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, N.M., where he continues to be a wildfire prevention legend.
Day engaged students in conversation about not playing with matches and providing clear spaces around campfires.
The ASES program in Ceres gives afterschool enrichment activities for approximately 3,250 Ceres students at 13 elementary school and the three junior high school campuses who otherwise might go home to an empty house because parents work. About 20 percent of students in ASES have parents at home but just enjoy doing things after the school day ends. Dallas Plaa, the new director of ASES, said each site engages 200 to 300 students during sessions with the highest attendance at 350.