A bit of Anne Arundel County is on the national Christmas tree at the White House this year.
Among the 3,500 ornaments on the 18 1/2 -foot tree are 10 decorations made by architecture students from Anne Arundel Community College. Julie DeStefano and Jerry Sowder, architecture students from Annapolis, designed and made by hand nine wooden hearts, painted gold, for the Fraser fir that stands in the White House Blue Room.
Elizabeth Emerson, an architecture major from Fort Meade, crocheted a three-dimensional cotton snowflake.
"I think it's great," said Mrs. DeStefano, president of the community college chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students.
"It's very exciting." Mrs. DeStefano said that in August she received a letter asking institute members to make 5-to 18-inch decorations from ceramic, fabric, glass or wood for the White House tree.
The ornaments had to be based on the theme " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas," a poem children have enjoyed since the 1820s. Firstlady Hillary Rodham Clinton selected the theme.
The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis began the tradition in which the first lady chooses a theme for the Christmas decorations, said Neal Lattimore, deputy press secretary for Mrs. Clinton.
"What better way to magnify 'And all through the house' than to ask architecture students to design and envision that night before Christmas," Mr. Lattimore said.
Mrs. DeStefano said she had hoped everyone in her 18-member chapter would participate, but final projects and exams made that impossible.
"Everyone was under the gun," said Mrs. DeStefano, 36. "They had a lot of great ideas for the ornaments, but they couldn't get it done. So, it came down to us three."
Mrs. Emerson said she selected the snowflake pattern because of its popularity.
"I find snowflakes very pretty," said Mrs. Emerson 25, who has been crocheting for i6 years.
Mr. Sowder said he and Mrs. DeStefano chose the heart to symbolize the determination that architecture students need to succeed in school.
"We've had a lot of people coming and going, and we've seen a lot of them drop out of the program," said Mr. Sowder, 28. "We believe that with the heart ornament, we can encourage other architecture students to believe in themselves and their hearts to succeed."
The pair spent about four days cutting, sanding and painting the nine heart decorations to meet the Oct. 30 deadline. Green velvet ribbons attached to the hearts help create the illusion that the decorations are suspended in midair.
On Dec. 4, Mrs. DeStefano and Mr. Sowder and other architecture students from around the country were invited to the Blue Room to see the tree and their decorations. Mrs. DeStefano said that at first she couldn't find her ornaments.
"We're walking around the tree, and I'm saying, 'Jerry, they're not here. Jerry, they're not here,' " Mrs. DeStefano said. "We walked to the front of the tree, and there they were. We were like little kids high-fiving each other and screaming, 'Look at that! Look at that!'"