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October 11, 2012
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Mesa County high schoolers learn the art & business of floriculture

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Melissa Vigil, 17, carefully arranged a vase of blue delphiniums, pink dahlias, purple liatris, purple lisianthus, yellow daisy mums and white wax flowers during class Tuesday at the Career Center. Vigil, who also attends R-5 High School, enrolled in the floriculture program as an elective and was filling an order for a customer.Floriculture is one of nine courses at the Career Center, a Mesa County Valley School District 51 program that offers hands-on learning and an opportunity to learn entry-level employment skills. Students make floral gift baskets, candy bouquets and seasonal wreathes and sell them at the floral gift shop, located inside the Career Center, 2935 North Ave.There are students from Palisade, Grand Junction, Central and R-5 high schools who've all elected to attend the one-hour and 50-minute sessions, Monday through Friday, to learn about flower arrangement, and running a business.Earlier this week, several students like 16-year old Paige Lintner and Sadie Harper, 15, both students at Central High School, were creating cornucopias of dried plants and artificial flowers - big sellers for use as centerpieces during the Thanksgiving holiday.Lintner said she ended up in the class by accident; she had intended to enroll in early childhood education - another Career Center program but ended up in floriculture instead."I just kind of fell in love with it," Lintner said. So she stayed. A variety of autumn wreathes hang on the wall of the gift shop. The store is open to the public on regular school days, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. "Fall wreathes and baskets have been big sellers already," assistant teacher Kristin Grundahl said. Any Grand Valley high school student can take the floriculture class as an elective. There are three sessions: 7:40 -9:30 a.m., 9:35-11:25 a.m., and 12:30-2:20 p.m.Students also practice retail and customer service skills in the program, teacher Julie Powell said."I teach them how to market, set up displays, write invoices, count back change," she said. Students earn a 1.25 math credit for every quarter class enrolled.There's a greenhouse at the school where students start plants from cuttings, and grow tomatoes, peppers and annuals from seed. Students also learn to "force some spring-blooming bulbs" for Valentine's Day, Powell said. Students learn the names of five new plants each week."Somebody just donated a box of jade plant cuttings we plan to start," Powell said. Powell also accepts donations of vases. Students earn a half credit in science for every two quarters they attend.Powell's hobby is gardening, and she's worked 30 years in the floral industry - as a landscaper and a greenhouse manager. So, she has real-world experience with what she's teaching.The high school floral program creates items for weddings, special events, retirement parties and graduations."Our busiest time is Valentine's Day," Powell said.For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine's Day, the floriculture program holds special sales at the Western Rockies Federal Credit Union branches in Grand Junction, Clifton and Fruita. The Thanksgiving sale will start Wednesday, Nov. 14.

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The Post Independent Updated Oct 11, 2012 06:53PM Published Oct 11, 2012 05:06PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.