Staff at Nechako Elementary School are fundraising to buy new trees, after a sapling planted last year by students was ripped apart in early August.
Gregory Judas, an Educational Assistant at Nechako Elementary, said the tree was planted in spring 2019 as an initiative for the school’s Green Club, which includes students in Grades Four to Six.
“The money that they got, for that tree, they actually won in a green competition. So, it was prize money,” Judas said. “They wrote poems and they planted them under this tree. And it was supposed to be this symbol for the future, you know, having a greater tomorrow. And they put their hopes and their dreams in poems and buried them.”
Judas said the tree was ripped and broken by people hanging out in the area behind the school late at night.
“They pulled the tree down and it was a young, healthy sapling, so it’s not like it snapped in half, they actually had to twist it off. And then they deposited it in the garbage can,” Judas said. “It’s just people having, well I guess ‘fun’ is a relative term. I call it a wanton act of destruction. They saw a young tree, they realized they could break it, they broke it.”
He added that, while destroying the tree was new, it isn’t uncommon for both teens and adults to hang out behind the school, or to vandalize other areas in and around Nechako Centre.
“The community has a bit of a blight problem, and it’s affecting the rest of the community. People will often hang out behind schools…and they’ll drink back there, and they’ll spray paint the tunnel just across from Kingfisher there.”
Judas said the ‘blight’ is not just a school issue, but something that affects the entire Nechako Centre and has for a long time. He added that security is something they’re working to improve at the school going forward.
“I live in the area, so it’s not very uncommon for me to see people going by that have clearly been drinking. I’ve had to phone the police on a couple of guys smashing bottles on each other,” Judas said. “There’s not enough security in the area. Like, the police do come through quite frequently, but we don’t have security cameras up [at the school] or anything.”
Judas said he and other staff members brought the issue of security to the school principal, who has since brought it to the school board, and plans are in the works to look at increasing security for the new school year starting in September.
Judas and several of the other staff involved with the Green Club at Nechako Elementary have since started a fundraiser to try to buy new trees to replace the one that was destroyed.
“We’re planning to plant at least one of the new trees where the old one was and maybe space out a new tree somewhere close by, just in case the one we replant doesn’t take,” Judas said.
He also added that donations have been coming in and many have even offered to donate trees, as well.
“Some people have reached out since starting the fundraiser offering to donate maples, and I’m not going to say no to having a few more trees in there!”
Judas said he and the other staff are very grateful to everyone for their support and donations, and are incredibly proud of the work the students in the Green Club have done.
“I’m very proud of the Green Team for the efforts that they’ve put in trying to make Kitimat a greener place, and the other people working on this are proud of them as well.”
Visit the Help Nechako Students Replace Their Tree GoFundMe page for more information or to donate.