The Sammamish High School EnAct club completed a multi-year project with community partners 300 TreesYMCA Earth Service CorpsWeisman Design Group and over 100 volunteers to plant 300 trees on campus to increase canopy coverage, November 13-14. The coalition leaves a legacy of cleaner air, wildlife support and community beauty.  

SHS EnAct VP, Benny Bassli, and SHS graduate and project founder, Kenneth Tran, share their insights on the project and how they worked with community partners to complete it. 

Students Leading the Way  

students and staff planting a new treeKenneth Tran founded the project in 2019 as an SHS junior, after an event with area sustainability investors and Bellevue City urban forestry specialists. He learned that the tree canopy coverage at SHS was eight percent, far short of the city average of 37%, and the Sustainable Bellevue: Environmental Stewardship Plan to reach 40% by 2050. 300 Trees co-founder, Dan Marsh, said that 2,500 trees per year need to be planted to reach that goal. Tran had to pause the project at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He turned over the project to current SHS EnAct Vice-President, Benny Bassli, who followed through with the planning and organization and continues to lead the work. 

“We thought that it was incredibly important to continue with the project because we wanted to make sure that our schools supported environmental justice. We wanted to make sure that climate change, which is a valuable issue, got many people’s attention. We thought that by planting many trees and by explaining it to our fellow students at Sammamish High School, that people will listen.” – Benny Bassli

Planting Trees, Building Community 

Alan Hayword giving demonstration to group on planting treesThis project was made possible through community support and partnership. Nick Hagan and Abby Jones of Weisman Design group laid out the trees on the open space, and arborist, Alan Haywood, demonstrated how to properly plant them in order to increase the likelihood they will thrive.  

“For a lot of the people here, it’s their own school campus, or their former school campus. And for many others, it’s just their neighborhood backyard — it’s really cool to see such a large impact on a local project like this.” -Kenneth Tran 

YMCA Earth Service Corps helped with logistics, such as marketing for volunteers, checking them in, and logging COVID-19 protocols during the event. Members of all the community partners helped plant trees as well. Volunteers planted the trees during four three-hour shifts throughout the weekend, with about 30-40 volunteers per shift. 

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.