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Del Valle HS students create Christmas ornaments for White House

Several Del Valle High School students are among 2,600 students nationwide – and the only ones in Texas – whose handmade holiday ornaments are now on display on dozens of indoor and outdoor Christmas trees at the White House in Washington D.C.

The students were selected to create the ornaments through 2022 Texas Teacher of the Year and Del Valle High School science teacher Dr. Ramon Benavides, who was asked to participate in two special White House holiday programs – the 2022 America Celebrates ornament program and First Lady Jill Biden’s White House Holiday ornament project.

“I’m more excited for the kids!” Benavides said. “It’s a legacy for them now. They can share with their kids, grandkids, primos, tias and everybody, ‘My artwork is at the White House.’”

The America Celebrates program, an annual collaboration of the National Parks Service, the U.S. Department, and the National Park Foundation (NPF), asked students from one school in every state to create ornaments to celebrate the places they call home.

These ornaments – featuring state flowers and notable landmarks – are currently placed outdoors on 58 trees that surround the National Christmas Tree in President’s Park in Washington D.C.

The ornaments created by 13 Del Valle High School students depicted a variety of iconic Texas scenes that include El Paso’s colorful sunsets and the Star on the Mountain; the historic Alamo Church; and bluebonnets, longhorn, and cacti, among others.

“I can’t believe that the art I drew is going to be at the White House – and right in front of the White House!” said Del Valle High School senior Lirio Hinostroza.

The second ornament project for Del Valle High School came from First Lady Jill Biden, who chose to focus this year’s White House decorations on the theme of, "We the People." The idea, Biden said, is to remind Americans of what unites them throughout the year, particularly during the holidays.

For this project, Biden requested that students of every State Teacher of the Year design self-portrait ornaments that are now hanging on a Christmas tree in the State Dining Room, which is dedicated to the next generation.

“I had to create my own self-portrait – and of course, I was told that I should stick to science,” Benavides said jokingly. “But it is an honor to have been selected by the state of Texas and the White House to participate in these two ornament programs.

“It’s just amazing for our kids, a great opportunity for them and a great opportunity for us to showcase El Paso,” he added.

Benavides has been invited to the White House for a ceremony next week to celebrate the self-portrait ornaments and share a few comments about his students’ self-portrait ornaments. And, in partnership with NPF, CBS will broadcast the 2022 National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 11.

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