Each of the 36 public schools that participated in this year's student landscaping program sponsored by Los Angeles Beautiful won an award, whether a trophy, plaque or a certificate, but they weren't the only winners.
The awards were given out in cooperation with the Los Angeles Unified School District at a banquet at the Biltmore Hotel last week, with top honors going to Lincoln High and Clay Junior High schools.
Also winning was the city, albeit in the form of a variety of ambitious landscaping projects prompted by the program and a heightened appreciation of such projects.
As for the students, they seemed to be genuinely turned on by the feeling of accomplishment and the sense of aesthetics the program offers. A few also said it has made them think about careers in landscaping.
Enjoying the program too were the judges, of whom I was one. It was particularly satisfying to crisscross the city to view the vestiges of civility the students had created, many of them in contrast to their surroundings.
In this 38th year of the program, the projects included Lincoln High School students planting a stunning rose garden in front of their school at 3501 N. Broadway. They also landscaped the entry of the school and other sections of the campus, the nearby Pueblo de Los Angeles Continuation School at 2506 Alta St. and the state employment office on North Broadway.
At Clay Junior High in South Central Los Angeles, the students took over a vacant lot north of their school at 122nd Street and Western Avenue, cleaned it and landscaped it with trees, shrubs, vegetables and flowers.
The project was done "to make it a source of neighborhood pride and to discourage the illegal dumping that goes on there," according to teacher Larry Newsome, who supervised the effort.
Students at Berendo Junior High in the south Wilshire area landscaped the front of their school at 1157 S. Berendo St., planted magnolia trees with a base of marigolds along the adjoining streets and worked on a community garden at 20th Street and Normandie Avenue.
In Lomita, students from Narbonne High planted bottle brush trees along Narbonne Avenue between Lomita Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway, and New Zealand Christmas and Canary Island pine trees on the Western Avenue median from Lomita to Sepulveda boulevards.
Over the years, students there have also landscaped the Lomita City Hall and the Lomita Post Office at 24300 and 25131 Narbonne Ave. respectively; the local VFW Post building, 1865 W. Lomita Blvd.; and the Lomita Railroad Museum Park at 250th Street and Woodward Avenue.
"These projects have been a real tradition at our school," student Donald O'Brooks said. He and Rich Bragg and George Blakeslee said participating in projects has inspired them to consider enrolling at Cal Poly Pomona to major in landscape design.
Other community projects include Sylmar High students restoring the Wildwood picnic grounds in the Angeles National Forest, Leichman Special Education School students helping to maintain Sycamore Cove and other beaches in Malibu, Chatsworth High students aiding in the reforestation of fire-blackened Lime Kiln Canyon, and North Hollywood High students landscaping patio areas of the Chandler Convalescent hospital at 5355 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
Also in the Valley, students from Francis Polytechnic High have planted oleander bushes they had raised from cuttings at school along nearly three miles of railroad track on both sides of San Fernando Road, from Ledge Avenue to Tuxford Street. Working on landscaping projects to beautify stretches of Victory Boulevard have been students from Canoga Park and Grant High.
Oleanders were also used by students of Richard Byrd Junior High in Sun Valley to form a hedge around a lot on Kewen Street that had been a dumping site for stolen cars and trash. "Our class decided that if we landscaped the area, we might send the message that somebody is caring for the site," said teacher Cathleen Constable.
What comes across viewing the efforts, as I did on the campuses of Gardena, Carson and Banning high schools, is the students' pride. "We only wish we had more time to work on the community garden project here," said Fernando Gonzales of Gardena.
Gail Watson of the nonprofit Los Angeles Beautiful said the program's purpose, in addition to improving the areas landscaped, is to raise the civic, design and environmental concerns of the students.
"And, of course, we hope that when they become citizens they will be for a more beautiful L.A.," she added. A noble cause.