ASD Program Update: Two Participants Pass the Certified Horticulture Professional Exam

Wilmot Gardens is proud to announce that two young scholars who completed the first cycle of the of ASD Job Skills Training Program at Wilmot Gardens, Amy Puccio and Eric Estores, have recently been awarded the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association’s (FNGLA) Certified Horticulture Professional (FCHP) designation. The FCHP program is the industry standard for measuring horticulture knowledge and is designed for people working in the industry or interested in entering the field. The exam covers a wide range of knowledge, including plant identification and landscape management. The two FCHP graduates  prepared for the exam for 12 months under the tutoring guidance of Dr. Charles Guy, an emeritus and courtesy professor in the Department of Environmental Horticulture at the University of Florida.

Amy PuccioLadies first – so let’s talk about Amy Puccio. Amy graduated from Eastside High School in 2004. She worked from 2005 to 2011 at Hitchcock’s Grocery in Hawthorne, Florida, and although she loved working with people, found that grocery work was not her passion. “Amy was missed by the customers in the community who frequented the store,” noted Amy’s mother, Yvette Puccio. Amy and her mother reported that since 2011, Amy has spent her time working on her family’s property, caring for the animals and taking care of the land. In spring 2017, Amy received the brochure for the new ASD Job Skills Training Program at Wilmot Gardens. “I wondered if it was what I was looking for, and it wasn’t long before the program helped me find a talent I was actually good at. I had no idea I was actually good at plants and horticulture!” Amy said.

Last year was a pivotal year for Amy, in many respects. In the summer of 2017, Amy purchased a house built in 1958. Shortly thereafter, she and her parents became busy with remodeling efforts, now complete. Amy carefully transplanted several plants and shrubs from her mother’s gardens onto her new property. She is proud of her lovely new home. “I am a month ahead on my mortgage already. I can’t wait to own it all,” she boasted. Amy is hopeful to secure employment in a local nursery to utilize her recently acquired knowledge and expertise.

Eric EstoresOur second graduate, Eric Estores graduated from Peppin Academies in Tampa in 2013. He then attended Beacon College and earned an Associate of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2015. Eric spends his time caring for his 6-year old Shiba-Inu dog, Shin-Kei. He and Shin-Kei take long walks around the neighborhood. Eric also enjoys caring for the gardens at his parents’ home, but added, “Shin-Kei doesn’t help. She chews the plants and digs them, which does not help me.” Eric decided to enroll in the ASD Job Skills Training Program in the spring of 2017 after he and his mother saw the brochure. Like Amy, he graduated from the initial class at Wilmot Gardens and has since been participating in FNGLA tutoring sessions with Dr. Guy.

Presently, Eric continues to tend his parent’s garden and participates in gardening on a larger scale at the Grow Hub, where he is an intern. Eric’s tasks at the Grow Hub include identifying and labeling plants, transferring seedlings into larger pots, weeding, and watering. Plant identification is Eric’s favorite job duty. “I can identify over 200 Florida plants,” Eric stated proudly. Eric’s hobby is his artwork. He is an accomplished artist with a collection of 92 Western songbirds sketched with colored pencils. Presently, he is learning to add watercolor backgrounds to his sketches and is looking forward to an exhibition of his artwork in the near future. Eric is happy to be a new FNGLA Certified Horticulture Professional and is hopeful to find a job in a greenhouse or nursery soon.

“It was such a delight to study with Amy and Eric,” said Dr. Guy. “They were so dedicated to learning the information in the FNGLA Horticulture Professional Manual. They always attended the study sessions, and came prepared to discuss the assigned materials for the week or identify the plants shown on the computer. I had so much fun working with them. I can only hope that I learned as much as they did over the course of our studies.”

All parties involved are excited for Amy and Eric to find work and have the opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge. Wilmot Gardens will host a private ceremony later this month at which FNGLA representatives will award both graduates with their FCHP certificates.

Jennifer Weis, M.S, C.P.C., ASD Program Coordinator, Wilmot Gardens

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