Amateur Christmas tree lot benefits local students

by: REVIEW PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - The Kids To College Christmas tree lot, located at the corner of First Street and A Avenue.   Below: Haley Russell, founder of Kids to College, never leaves her post for long. She’ll be back for her gloves soon. REVIEW PHOTOs: DREW DAKESSIANWhoever said money doesn’t grow on trees clearly hasn’t heard of Kids To College, a pop-up Christmas tree lot with one specific purpose: to raise money.

In 2008, Haley Russell was a freshman at Lake Oswego High School whose desire to get involved in extracurricular activities was disproportionate to the funds she had at her disposal.

“I got into high school and realized how much after-school activities cost,” Russell recalled.

In an effort to raise enough money to be an active cheerleader during the school year and go to camp in the summer, Russell started Teens to Camp, initially selling baskets of sunflowers and eventually moving on to Christmas trees and wreaths.

Four years later, Teens to Camp has been restyled as Kids To College, with most of the profits from the sale of wreaths and trees helping pay the college tuition of Russell and anyone else that chooses to get involved, because many of Russell’s friends are in college elsewhere.

“Myself and my mother Nikii, we’re the main people,” she said. “My mom decided that she wanted to help promote the business by donating money and we found tree farms that are locally grown only about an hour and a half away, so everything’s staying in the community.”

Even though Russell graduated from LOHS this year and is now enrolled at Portland Community College with plans to transfer to a larger university in two years, she hasn’t forgotten her roots: The LOHS cheer team takes orders for hand-tied wreaths, garlands and other holiday decorations made by Kids To College, “and whatever proceeds we make from that we give to them so they can pay for their after-school activities and also grow the cheer program,” Russell said.

Nikii Davis, Russell’s mother, said this experience has taught her daughter important lessons about the work world. It would seem so. Russell registered Kids To College as a new business with the Secretary of State Corporation Division in October.

Proudly, Russell expounded on what she felt everyone should know about Kids To College: “This is a business I actually started and created myself.”

The Kids To College tree lot is housed in the parking lot on the corner of First Street and A Avenue throughout the month of December. Trees run from around $25 to $35, depending on size.

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