Go Green Youth Challenge now open

Michigan Arbor Day Alliance contests aimed at K-12 students

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Two contests are now open for students in Michigan to vie for top honors while demonstrating and learning about the importance of trees.

The Go Green Youth Challenge of the Michigan Arbor Day Association offers two contests for kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the state. The first part of the challenge is a fundraising contest and the second part is a creative writing contest.

“A lot of times, the participants we get are classrooms, but any kind of group can participate, even individuals,” said Jennifer Hunnell, the statewide Arbor Day coordinator.

The Go Green Youth Challenge fundraising competition was created in 2011. The challenge began on Monday and runs through March 28. Individuals and groups design, develop and run a fundraiser of their choice during the contest period and submit the proceeds to the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance to fund tree plantings. The group or individual raising the most money wins funds for tree planting of up to $500.

“Some schools do coin wars between classrooms, or paid hat days or teacher dress-down days,” Hunnell said. “A lot of people will tie it into Earth Day or an environmental lesson.”

Many times, winning groups are school classrooms, which then help plant the trees in the prize package and a few students are able to attend the Arbor Day celebration in Lansing, she added. Arbor Day is the last Friday in April; this year, it falls on April 29.

All the money from the fundraiser contest goes for tree plantings. The Arbor Day Alliance has tree planting grants available to organizations. The grants are partly funded by the contest proceeds and partly by corporate sponsorships, Hunnell said.

The second portion of the challenge, the Go Green Youth Challenge Creative Writing Contest, also opened on Monday and runs through March 7, with entries postmarked by March 14 to be eligible for consideration. This year’s theme is “What would happen if trees were in charge?”

The writing contest includes all genres — essays, short stories, poetry and more — as long as the entries are no longer than 350 words. Additionally, the pieces must follow formatting guidelines to be considered. First, second and third place prizes are awarded in each age group.

This year, for the first time, Hunnell has approval for one overall grand prize for the writing contest, as well.

“The grand prize includes a journal, binoculars and a field guide to the trees and flowers of the Great Lakes region so the winner can go exploring in their back yard or park and journal outside,” Hunnell said.

Historically, fundraiser participation has centered in the lower middle portion of the Lower Peninsula, Hunnell said, though the contests are open throughout the state. Since its inception in 2013, the writing contest has garnered entries statewide.

“The feedback has generally been pretty good,” Hunnell said. “I welcome any K-12 school or student to participate. I love seeing the responses and hearing the stories about how students engage with the community. If anyone needs help with the contest, I’m more than happy to provide assistance where I can.”

Collectively since 2011, students have helped plant more than 1,000 trees, Hunnell said.

“I think tree planting is incredibly important to the state in terms of the environment as a whole,” she said. “These contests, very simply, are a way students can get involved with the greater community.”

For more information about the contests, including complete rules, prize lists and entry materials, visit miarbordayalliance.org/ggyc.html.