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Inspiring students for garden careers

Published: 
4 weeks 4 days ago
On a midday stroll through Cornell Botanic Gardens in summer, one will likely see artfully cultivated gardens, cheerful horticulturists, visiting families, and high school aged students getting their hands dirty. These students are part of a summer program through Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) designed to help high school students explore different career paths and build essential workplace skills.

During the summer programs, students rotate through the diverse jobs and positions at Cornell Botanic Gardens to understand how a public garden operates and to cultivate a deeper appreciation for nature. A typical day for a student could include potting, organizing, cleaning, labeling cuttings, weeding, mulching, and cutting back plants, says Missy Bidwell, who coordinates both the summer program and the botanic gardens’ role in a campus-wide program during the school year. Bidwell manages the production greenhouse for the botanic gardens.
 
  “In addition to the hands-on horticultural skill building, the students learn workplace practices that are important to success on the job,” she says. Punctuality, business etiquette, personal presentation, and attitude are developed and taken seriously in the summer program. “Our aim is that the BOCES students’ biggest takeaway from the program is a well-rounded skillset that is transferrable to future job opportunities.”

While Cornell Botanic Gardens enjoys volunteer service from the BOCES students, the real benefit lies in the opportunity to inspire and prepare students for jobs in horticulture, to connect youth with nature, and to empower them to have a positive impact on the planet.