A national ornament


Jodi Kessler, a 1998 graduate of Hillsboro High School, is a photography teacher at Lakota Central High School in West Chester, Ohio, and photographs by her students were selected to represent Ohio at the 100th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Lakota Central High School is the only school representing Ohio at this year’s National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C. One of the 58 smaller trees ceremoniously surrounding the National Tree will be adorned with one-of-a-kind ornaments showcasing the photography of Lakota Central student artists.

The “America Celebrates” ornament program, a collaboration of the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Park Foundation, challenges students to celebrate the places they call home.

The program is one of the highlights of the 100th national ceremony that happened on the White House Lawn, also known as President’s Park, Wednesday, Nov. 30. The ceremony will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sunday, Dec. 11.

Nominated by the Ohio Department of Education, Lakota Central students submitted photos of nature inspired by the horizon on the Great Seal of Ohio, said Kessler. According to the collection’s description featured on the National Christmas Tree Lighting website: “Students captured breathtaking sunsets, rushing waters, bees, butterflies, a Bald Eagle, and even a storm on their camera phones. Many students photographed people enjoying Ohio’s outdoor beauty. We hope these photos inspire you to visit our state and to take photos while you are here.”

“I took a risk when I submitted the student designs by sending photography instead of drawings,” said Kessler. “I especially loved seeing the President’s Park Twitter page tweet out three of our designs on November 7 with a post that read, ‘Student designs for the America Celebrates ornaments aren’t just drawings or paintings! These designs are photographs featuring the silhouettes of things the students think make their state beautiful, in front of breathtaking sunsets.’”

The ornament featured on the National Tree website was designed by Lakota Central sophomore Leala Norman and showcases three children against a picturesque sunset. Seventeen more in the collection feature mostly beautiful skies and nature.

“I felt extremely accomplished when I found out I had a picture in Washington. I had never really had my art noticed on a national level, and it is such a nice feeling for such an important part of my life to be noticed,” said Lakota Central senior Sydney Fouch.

The public can view the National Christmas Tree and the “America Celebrates’ ornaments up close from Dec. 2 through Jan. 1, 2023. Photos of the ornaments designed by more than 2,600 students nationally can also be viewed on the President’s Park Facebook page.

Kessler is the daughter of Jim and Joan Winner of Hillsboro. She is also a member of the Princeton School Board.

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.

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