Joliet Junior College, Joliet IL
Authors: Jeanne Briggs and Bob Polomski
Twelve Clemson students (11 horticulture majors and one construction management major) participated in the 35th Annual Student Career Days competition in March. This year Joliet Junior College, located just south of Chicago, hosted the event. Over 800 students from 60 colleges and universities gathered to compete in 28 events that test knowledge and skills used in the landscape industry. Students also participate in training workshops conducted by industry leaders and attend the largest career fair for the landscape workforce.
The Clemson University student team enrolls in a variable credit course, PLANET SCD Preparation (Hort 400, Sec 1), which meets weekly for study sessions and also participates in extracurricular fund raising activities. Instructors are Jeanne Briggs and Bob Polomski. All expenses for the trip are covered by industry and association sponsorships and student generated revenues. This year our generous and most appreciated sponsors were Bartlett Tree Experts, CU Horticulture Club, Color Burst, Enviro AgSciences, Greater Columbia Landscape Association, HiCotton Greenhouses, Hunter Industries, Martin Nursery, SC Greenhouse Growers Association, SC Landscape and Turf Association, SC Nursery and Landscape Association, and WP Law. Student fund raising activities included helping with move-in at the SCHI trade show, the Rent-a-Student program (students moved furniture, designed landscapes, spread mulch, eradicated ancient ivy and vinca plantings, and washed roots for research), a garden bench raffle, Bojangles’ nights, and a plant sale held in conjunction with the SC Botanical Gardens spring sale (which generated $3000). All together over $10,000 was donated and raised for the trip.
Our goal for the competition is to always improve over the previous year’s performance, and the students succeeded. Clemson University rose in overall ranking to 15th place out of 60 schools. (All of the higher-ranking schools but one were comprised of teams much larger than ours.) Individual competitive event accomplishments include:
Four students had total scores that earned rankings in the top 100 (out of 804 students): Jaime Morin - 20th, Jonathan Holmes – 43rd, Kyle Worthy – 90th and Jonathan Smith – 96th. Other team members contributing to the overall boosted performance were Tim Knauer, Jackie Seles and Griffin Westbrook.
After the competition, we moved to downtown Chicago for a night and enjoyed more Chicago pizza and the City sights (Millennium Park, the Hancock Tower, Art Institute and Field Museum). On our final day, we visited the BallHort headquarters in W. Chicago where we toured the new premiere seed lab facilities and greenhouses, and then travelled to Garfield Park Conservatory (the oldest in the US), which was magnificent.
Congratulations to all of the students on their outstanding performance! Next year, Kansas State University will be hosting the event and we are looking forward to another even more successful competition.