Tree lighting ceremony in Washington, DC

Students at Caldwell Arts Academy are spreading Christmas cheer all the way to Washington, D.C. The fine arts magnet school was chosen out of all the schools in Texas to create ornaments for the state tree at the 2021 National Christmas Tree Display.  

“Caldwell Academy is all about opportunities for our stars to showcase their talents, and this is on a whole new scale for us,” Principal Bobby Markle said. “To have their work displayed in our nation’s capital on behalf of the state of Texas is a true honor. When the students found out the scale of this project, they all were stunned that so many people would see it!”

Fifth-grader Quinn Squyres designed one of the twelve ornaments on the Texas tree. Her ornament is featured on the National Christmas Tree Lighting 2021 website.

“I feel really happy to have accomplished getting my ornament on the national tree website and the state tree in Washington D.C.,” Quinn said. “I drew a longhorn, and it is special to Texas and me. My grandparents live on a farm, and longhorns live across the street. This was my inspiration.” 

Students from fifty-eight schools across the nation and abroad designed one-of-a-kind ornaments for the display on the Ellipse in President’s Park. These unique ornaments adorn fifty-eight smaller trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree. Each tree represents a U.S. state, territory, or the District of Columbia as part of the America Celebrates ornament display.

Caldwell Academy students who participated in the event include AIdan Ginn, Riley Klofenstine, Gerardo Reyes, Raymundo Olivares, Quinn Squyres, Nailynn Morales, Blake Hulcy, Alyssia Martines, Frida Cuevas, Desiree Sanchez, Brianna Castillo, and Kennedy Carmichael.

The America Celebrates ornament program is an annual collaboration of the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Park Foundation (NPF). The U.S. Department of Education worked with states and territories to identify elementary, middle, and high schools to participate in the America Celebrates program.

The National Christmas Tree Lighting has strong ties to education. In 1923, a letter arrived at the White House from the District of Columbia Public Schools proposing that a decorated Christmas tree be placed on the South Lawn of the White House. On Christmas Eve that year, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the Oval Office to the Ellipse and pushed a button that lit the first National Christmas Tree. It was a 48-foot balsam fir donated by Middlebury College in Vermont. Since 1973, the National Christmas Tree has been a living tree that can be viewed year-round in President’s Park – one of America’s 423 national parks!

For more information, contact Jennifer Hines at