The Trees for Kids/Teens program gives away grants in the fall and spring each year. Wagner said there are usually between 40 to 60 grants of up to $5,000 given out in total each year. She said several of the state's utility companies sponsor the grant. One reason for that is that planting trees can definitely make a building more energy efficient. According to Wagner planting trees on the east and west sides of buildings can increase energy efficiency up to 20 percent.
However, that is not the only benefit to having trees around. Wagner said studies have shown being able to see or be near a tree filled environment can help with concentration and to lower aggression and cortisone levels in the body, as well as helping people with many ailments including diabetes, ADHD, hypertension, asthma, obesity and Alzheimer's.
Any school is eligible to apply for the grant as well as other non-profits and cities. The trees just have to be planted in a public space, as well as having the educational component and student involvement during the plantings. Groups can apply each year and projects can range from a small one, such as Centerville High School's up to a project planting hundreds of trees at a time.
According to Bellemare, there is definite interest in participating again. She said she received a lot of help in getting the project off the ground from Wagner, the other AmeriCorp coordinators and Alex Lind at Centerville Greenhouses, as well as many others when writing the grant and in learning about the best trees to plant.
"We just want the kids to know they can do this," said Bellemare.
She hopes the experience will stay with the students involved as they become adults and they will be energized to help improve their communities and realize they can look for grants such as the DNR's to help make the improvements they are inspired to attempt.