Perspectives Online

Local 4-Her plays significant role in 4-H Million Trees project and its environmental excellence recognition


Mary Silliman (front, left) works at a tree-planting in Apex with fellow Robocats 4-H members.

Photo Courtesy Ben Silliman

When the national 4-H Million Trees project was honored as a 2010 winner of the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Awards,  North Carolina 4-H’er Mary Silliman was one of three youths selected from nationwide to attend the April awards ceremony in Tampa, Fla.  Mary is a member of the Robocats 4-H Club in Apex and daughter of Dr. Ben Silliman, 4-H and Youth Development associate professor and specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, N.C. State University. North Carolina 4-H is the youth development program of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
4-H Million Trees was launched in Pacifica, Calif., to help combat global climate change and reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by mobilizing the 7 million 4-H youths across North America to plant 1 million trees.  The project now is one of eight honored by SeaWorld/Busch Gardens for outstanding efforts to protect and preserve the environment.

In Tampa for the awards ceremony are (from left) Tom Webber, Mary Silliman, Ben Silliman (parent), Laura Melancon, Jack Hanna, Sydnie Edwards, Ellie Melancon (parent) and Lisa Edwards (parent).
Photo Courtesy Ben Silliman
For her part, Mary Silliman has led efforts in the planting of trees in Apex Jaycee Park this as well as other areas throughout the town, so that more than 2,513 trees have now been planted there – making the Robocats No.2 in the nation for the 4-H Million Trees Project. The Apex tree-planting has been dedicated by the club the memory of Mary’s brother, Matt Silliman, a friend and mentor to the club, who died in 2008.

Mary’s project-related research on urban forestry led to a presentation that earned a 4-H state gold medal award in 2009. Also in 2009, she was named Outstanding Individual in Urban Forestry from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Outstanding Youth Volunteer for the 4-H North Central Region.

Then, this past February, she was selected from among 29,000 participants in 4-H Million Trees to represent the project and share her story at the awards ceremony in Tampa, along with fellow 4-H’ers Laura Melancon of Louisiana and Sydnie Edwards of California. Adult volunteer project leader Tom Webber of Pacifica, Calif., (whose daughter, Laura, initiated 4-H Million Trees) sponsored youth representatives and their parents at the event. The group shared presentations and networking time with the seven other winning teams and enjoyed Busch Gardens animal and amusement park, including meeting Animal Planet naturalist Jack Hanna.