Sarah Castrigano has been announced the winner of the spring 2019 TLC Scholarship Contest.
Castrigano says winning the scholarship is encouraging and that it will go a long way in helping her develop and make the most of her education. She will be awarded $2,500, which will be paid to her college on her behalf.
Castrigano is a sophomore at Cuyahoga County Community College and she is majoring in plant science and landscape technology. She says she selected the community college because it is local, accessible and affordable.
“I did some more research and learned about their successes in the National Collegiate Landscape Competitions and about how they were outcompeting many 4-year schools,” Castrigano says. “The professors are all industry professionals and provide a well-rounded, practical and hands-on education.”
While Castrigano says she has always enjoyed the outdoors it wasn’t until she took up the hobby of beekeeping that she decided to make a career change. Prior to returning to school, she owned and operated a yoga and massage therapy business.
“I was ready for a change,” she says. “I deliberated over the decision for over a year as I knew the lease for my business was coming up for renewal. I have always made a hobby of plants, gardening and being outdoors, and over the years those interests had grown. I wanted to go back to school so I started to seriously consider a future in horticulture. The more I leaned into it, the more it became clear that this would be the next thing for me. It makes me really happy.”
So far Castrigano says all of her coursework has come fairly easily to her and she has enjoyed expanding her comfort zone by learning more about topics like small engine repair and chain saw operation.
“I have had opportunities to learn equipment operations, maintenance and safety, study horticultural botany and learn plant propagation and production in a hands-on and direct way,” she says. “I have also learned of the variety of opportunities available in the landscaping and horticultural field and am fortunate to have several professors and program directors offering support and guidance. It’s been a great experience and I look forward to my future in horticulture and landscaping.”
Castrigano was originally concerned that going back to college would be a challenge trying to study and care for her 7-year-old daughter, but she says the classes fit her schedule well and the two have established a good routine and even do their homework together.
“She is just starting in our local 4H club, and when picking her first projects, she chose plants!” She says. “I’m moved by how my efforts are contributing to her curiosity. It’s working out better than I could have imagined.”
After graduating, Castrigano hasn’t decided if she’ll proceed to earn her bachelor’s but says she in five years she expects to be working as a landscape designer either as an independent contractor or on staff for a landscaping company.
“I would also like to do something within my community to cultivate connection and interest in the environment and share the wonder, maybe educating part time at the botanical gardens or within the local park system,” she says. “I expect to become a certified arborist and also have my pesticide applicators license. One of the things that I appreciate most about my professors is that they all have a variety of certifications and experiences and I hope to align myself in a similar way and take advantage of every opportunity available to me.”
For those interested in applying for the fall semester scholarship of $2,500, click here to fill out your application by July 10.