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Walter White hosts Arbor Day celebration
Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra unfurls a new Tree City USA flag from ranger Darla Mills at a Friday afternoon Arbor Day observance at Walter White Elementary School. The entire student body turned out for the event near the new school garden. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Walter White Elementary School students parked themselves on the lawn of the playground Friday and helped city and school district officials observe Arbor Day and hail the value of trees to the life of those living in Ceres.

City officials mixed with teachers, students and school district officials on Friday afternoon to celebrate trees as well as the city of Ceres being designated - for the 20th time - the title of Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The wiggly student body patiently sat through a reading of the city Arbor Day proclamation by Councilman Chris Vierra as well as a recitation of the benefits of trees by forest ranger Darla Mills . But most were thinking about recreation employee Traci Dayton-Farris who mentioned she would be doling out refreshments at the end of the ceremony. Those were doled out by members of the Ceres Garden Club.

Vierra said the city takes care of 15,000 street trees and park trees.

Ceres has met the four points of criteria to be dubbed Tree City USA:

• Have a tree board or department that plants and maintains trees;

• Host an annual Arbor Day observance;

• Adopt and enforce a tree care ordinance;

• Budget a program that allocates at least $2 per resident for the care of city trees.

Prior to the ceremony, the K-6 students were asked to be a part of an Arbor Day poster contest. Winners of the contest were announced at the ceremony.

Mills told students that trees help cleanse the air by intercepting airborne particles, reducing heat, and absorbing such pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Trees remove this air pollution by lowering air temperature, through respiration, and by retaining particulates. She also noted that some drugs and clothing come from tree products.

During the first Arbor Day observance in 1872, a million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Earlier in the day, Walter White unveiled its new school with a walk-through led by students serving as docents. The garden's UC Extension partners were on hand to help answer horticulture and nutrition questions.

"The students are proud of their agricultural and environmental efforts," said teacher Jan-Marie Purdy.