Million Trees campaign gives Villa Maria Academy a shady deal

The kiddies at Villa Maria Academy will show Mother Nature some love this Friday. Students will parade around Country Club before returning to the school to read poems and dedicate some of the 81 new trees that have been planted on school grounds, all in honor of Earth Day, which is Thursday April 22.

Villa Maria was made aware of the potential planting by Almstead Tree Company in New Rochelle. They introduced school administrators to a representative from Million Trees NYC, which is part of New York’s plan for restoration of trees throughout the five boroughs. The representative checked out the land to see how many trees the school could take, and in the end, the school was left with 81 new trees.

Sister Teresa Barton said that everybody benefits in this process. “We got free trees, and the beautifying of our landscape,” she said. “And the tree company got paid by the state, and Million Trees got to spread more trees.”

The students are currently preparing posters, drawings, and essays that attempt to show what the benefits of trees are to the rest of the world.

Villa Maria has built an entire new mini-curriculum around these trees. “We are emphasizing care for the earth and for the trees,” said Barton. “And teachers are doing lessons with them on the need for water and space for trees to grow.” Some of the classes will also adopt a tree.

The trees, meanwhile, are hardly the small shrubs that some schools have students plant each year. “They aren’t little 6-inch twigs, these are already half-grown trees!” raved Sister Blanche LaPorte.

In the same week, Million Trees NYC planted new trees over at Providence Rest, as well. The nursing facility will dedicate some to residents who have passed away. Some of the trees will get memorial plaques. “This is a great program for everyone,” said Susan Steinberg. “Instead of killing trees we’re planting more of them, and adding to the beauty of our land. We’re thrilled.”

Unlike the students, the folks at Providence Rest will not be parading. But as the students prepare for their celebration, making different signs and headbands with leaves in them, LaPorte could only say: “It had better not rain.”

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or

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