Wicker to hang Petal students’ ornaments in Washington, D.C.

The handiwork of approximately 30 Petal High School art students will be on display in the nation’s capital throughout the holiday season, as U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker will soon use handmade ornaments gifted by the students to decorate the Christmas tree in the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Wicker paid a visit to the high school on Friday, where students got the opportunity to show the ornaments off to the senator in the school’s library, affectionately known as “The Den.” The ornaments were then packaged and boxed for their journey to Washington, where Petal High School will be the sole school in the state represented on the tree.

“It truly is an honor that we were chosen to create ornaments for Senator Wicker and Washington, D.C. this year,” art teacher Kimberly Evans said. “Petal has an outstanding visual arts program with very talented students, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to really show that off on a national stage.”

Each ornament was crafted with wood or ceramics and featured a theme of something Mississippi-related, such as Elvis Presley or the John C. Stennis Space Center.

“It’s really exciting to have (Wicker) visit us,” Evans said. “We’ve been working for over a month on this project, and the students just feel really honored that he would come to our school and ask us about it, and really just visit and talk with us.”

Ninth-grade Ceramics II students Lauren McCarty and Karshava Bunch teamed up to make a rocket-ship themed ornament in honor of the space center, which is located in Hancock County on the banks of the Pearl River.

“We didn’t want to make it plain – we wanted to make it stand out from other rocket ships,” McCarty said. “It feels very honorable, because I’ve never done anything like this before.

“I’m very thankful, because the teachers chose the ornaments (that would be presented), and ours got hand-picked. I think we both feel very lucky.”

Wicker said the idea to get ornaments from Mississippi schools came from his wife, who instituted the tradition three years ago. Petal marks the first school in the Pine Belt that has been chosen for the honor, as Gulfport High School was picked the first year, followed by Clinton High School the second year.

“We picked Petal because it’s an outstanding high school, and they were very receptive to the idea,” Wicker said. “This is an opportunity to combine so many things; this is an education in Mississippi history and in Mississippi current events.

“In Washington, we display signs out in the hallway (that say) we lead the nation in music, and we consider ourselves the birthplace of America’s music. We’re second to no one in terms of writers, and then innovation – you have Peavey manufacturing, you have FedEx, and some of these ornaments talk about that.”

Over the last couple of years, the ornaments have become a hit with officials in Washington.

“People come from all over Capitol Hill and just poke their head in the door in our front office, just to see this unique Christmas tree,” he said. “Nobody else in the whole Senate does this; we’re the only Christmas tree that is done by students back home, and it makes me proud.”