Nueva Vista Language Academy got selected this year to represent the state of California at the Christmas tree lighting in Washington, D.C.
The California Department of Education is tasked to select a school each year. To apply for this opportunity, each school applies online at the National Parks Website. Once selected, the school leader is tasked to read information about the process and get the school and students involved.
The school must have a group of students design some ornaments and then send a picture of the ornaments to the National Parks representative. The school cannot share its selections publicly until the National Parks send out the official press release.
‘When we applied to help decorate the tree for California, we had no clue that we would be invited to the National Christmas Tree Lighting in Washington, D.C. The ornaments were submitted in early October 2022, said Joshua Herrera, Principal of Nueva Vista Language Academy. “In late October, we were informed that each state is allowed to send two representatives to view the tree lighting. Decorating the tree was a huge honor, but being asked to attend the event in Washington, D.C. was unbelievable.”
Herrera said California rarely sends representatives to this event because of the costs associated with the travel across the country. Nueva Vista Language Academy was supported by the district board and superintendent Rosalina Rivera who approved the visit to Washington, D.C.
Emma Vasquez is one of the 18 students who helped create ornaments for the tree to represent California. Vasquez is in sixth grade in Mrs. Garcia, Mrs. Bejar, and Mr. Huerta’s class. She was chosen to attend the event because her art was selected by site staff to be the thumbnail on the National Parks website. Vasquez was selected because of her artistic talent and the story behind her art.
The guidelines for the art asked the students to represent the beauty of what California means to them. Vasquez found out she was selected and going to Washington, D.C. during school as it was announced over the intercom.
“Emma’s ornament was rich in purple and green color tones that represent grapes and the fields. While some students drew the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco or the Hollywood sign from Los Angeles, Emma’s art represented the hard work and beauty of the fields around Kern County,” said Herrera. “Emma has family members who have worked hard in the field to provide for their family. Emma understands how grapes are a way to provide and saw the beauty in the fields.”
The district funded the trip to Washington, D.C. for Vasquez, her mother Concepcion, Principal Joshua Herrera, Vice Principal Casey Rivas, and teacher Edith Bejar.
The district board and Superintendent Rivera provided hotel and travel accommodations. Superintendent Rivera also provided Vasquez and her mother with $500 to use for food and expenses while on the trip.
“Neither Emma nor her mother have ever been on an airplane. They were excited to travel
across the country,” said Herrera.
Vasquez and the team spent every minute exploring Washington D.C. One of their special highlights was visiting the United States Capitol building.
“We had a surprise visit from Congressman David Valadao. Congressman Valadao met with the Nueva Vista team and led us in a tour of the capital, particularly the U.S. House Floor where Emma and the team learned more about house congress and voting works,” said Herrera.
Principal Herrera is very happy and proud that Nueva Vista Language Academy decorated the tree to represent all of California with Vasquez’s ornament.
“We highly encourage all schools to apply for this opportunity for next year,” said Herrera.