Twenty-two years ago, Emily Hart’s daughter was in the inaugural kindergarten class at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School when the class planted a live oak tree in front of the school.
That tree stood there for more than two decades, alongside a plaque commemorating the kindergarteners who donated it.
But last October, Hurricane Matthew came through and tore the tree down. However, on Thursday, Hart — who now teaches fifth grade at Oglethorpe Point — stood among her students and watched as a new live oak was planted in the same place.
“We just found out about it yesterday, and the students were very excited,” Hart said.
David Webster, president of Webster Tile and Bath and the parent of a fifth-grader at Oglethorpe Point, donated the tree not only to replace the fallen one, but also to give back to the school his son attends.
“We wanted to give something back to his school, and also this tree was planted by the first kindergarten class, so I felt like it’s appropriate to plant another tree to replace that one,” Webster said. “And it can be this year’s fifth-grade class that remembers planting that, replacing the one the hurricane took out.”
With the help of the Golden Isles Fund for Trees, Webster arranged for a live oak to be donated to the school. At a planting ceremony Thursday, GIFT board member Miriam Lancaster said Webster’s donation is a gift not only for the students today, but for generations to come.
“We plant trees not for ourselves, but for you guys and your children and your grandchildren,” Lancaster said. “You can come back when you grow up, to visit and see how much the tree has grown.”
Former Glynn County Commissioner Dale Provenzano, who was in attendance for the ceremony, said he also saw the original tree when it was planted in 1994. His wife was a teacher at Oglethorpe Point at the time. He said he hopes to see the students model themselves after Webster by growing up and giving back to the community where they grew up.
“Maybe 22 years from now you guys will come back and donate another tree, either to this school or somewhere else,” he said.
Carter Akins, the school’s principal, said the donation showed his students how much the community cares for them.
“To have the community care about our school means a lot,” he said. “To have the community come back and invest and to help our school look beautiful is important to us. And I think it also means a lot to have something that was given to students get returned back and given to students again.”
Hart said her students got a lesson in stewardship on Thursday.
“It’s important to show them how this cycle happens when they’re little, how when they get big they can give back to the school that they came from,” she said.