Green industry leaders gathered last night at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina, to present the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) Foundation scholarships to students from across the country.
Jerry Grossi, president of the NALP Foundation, said the organization has given close to $1 million in scholarship money to date.
“You can’t have this event without donors,” he said.
Grossi also praised the educators for pushing students to apply for the scholarships and for the students who worked hard enough to earn them.
A total of 64 scholarships were presented last night and according to Roger Phelps, Stihl’s corporate communication manager, 75 total scholarships have been awarded in 2018.
There were 47 Ambassador Scholarships, worth $1,000, and 16 Platinum Ambassador Scholarships, worth $2,000-$2,500, awarded by various landscaping companies.
Michelle Thurgood from Brigham Young University received the President’s Scholarship, worth $3,000, for the second year in a row.
North Dakota State University went five for five, with all of its students who applied for scholarships receiving one. Kari Trembath and Connor Hagemeyer received Platinum Ambassador Scholarships while Tori Jones, Sarah Kickert and Kaylee Ann Pierce earned Ambassador Scholarships.
For Hagemeyer, this is the second NALP Foundation scholarship he has received, winning the Gravely Landscape Management Scholarship last year while he was awarded the Husqvarna Professional Products Scholarship this year.
As a junior majoring in horticultural science, Hagemeyer is currently considering grad school and wants to focus on plant breeding. It is his third year attending the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) and he will be participating in annual and perennial ID, woody ornamental ID, arboriculture and flower and foliage ID events.
“It’s just great to get all of the horticulture people together and it’s more than horticulture too…to get that together to one conference/competition and really showcase what your school has to offer and to see what other schools have to offer,” he said. “It’s really nice to broaden your horizons and network. Networking is fantastic so yeah, it’s really great all across the board.”
Meanwhile, Kickert, a junior horticulture major with a minor in landscape architecture, says she would like to be a high-end residential designer when she graduates.
She attended NCLC last year and participated in several events. This year she is competing in five events: maintenance cost estimating, business management, annual and perennial ID, 3D exterior landscape design and landscape plant installation.
“I really like it because it’s a great way to connect with industry professionals and it’s really fun and just getting to go to all the workshops,” Kickert said. “I went to Vectorworks today and I learned so much more and it refreshed it in my mind after working with it in the summer. I learned how to do new things that I didn’t know how to do before. Connecting with future employers is really big in my book, for sure.”
Phelps says that there are several takeaways that students receive from attending NCLC, including a realization that there are jobs out there for them and a sense of camaraderie among the other attendees.
“From an industry perspective, they see there’s a future and it’s for real,” Phelps said. “They see the industry is willing to invest in them and then they get to know a lot of people and a lot of the relationships they build here will last them the rest of their lives.”
Interest in NCLC has also increased with three to four new schools attending this year and around 740 students participating, according to Phelps. Additionally, around 170 FFA students from the surrounding area will be attending throughout the week to see what the industry is all about.
“We have to get these kids early in the decision process before they select a college or a major or whatever they’re thinking,” Phelps explained. “We need them thinking that ‘Hey landscaping could be a cool career; I’m going to look at these colleges,’ instead of maybe going into something else.”
Phelps says the industry needs to ensure that the landscape and nursery programs at colleges do not disappear.
“I think as a country, sometimes we don’t look at the skill trades as something worth valuing and yet they’re essential, so we really got to change that mindset,” he said. “I think that’s where the Industry Growth Initiative is so important.”
As for why NCLC is important to the industry, Phelps answered simply: “It’s our future.”