A team of landscaping students at the Delaware Area Career Center took first place in a FFA Landscape and Nursery competition held at the school earlier this month.
Members of the winning team included Chris Beaver, a senior at Buckeye Valley High School; Elmer Hernandez-Tomas, a senior at Westerville Central High School; Evan Merklin, a senior at Centerburg High School; and Noah Young, a home-schooled junior.
To qualify for the competition, the students needed to pass two online tests, one about general knowledge safety and one test about identification of plants and tools. The 10 teams of four students who scored highest on the test moved onto the state competition, which was held April 7 at the DACC.
The state competition consisted of six categories: surveying, paver installation, grading & drainage, skid steer, plant layout and cost estimation. The DACC team took first place in surveying, paver installation, and grading & drainage, while also earning second place in the plant layout competition. The competition was judged by industry professionals.
“It felt pretty good,” Merklin, who was awarded 11th place individually, said. “We practiced a lot, almost every day. For the last two years we’ve been practicing and learning skills.”
Individually, Hernandez was awarded first place, a distinction he is proud of.
“I’ve been doing this for quite some time and never got any recognition, and being in this competition made me feel good,” Hernandez said.
Beaver, who placed second individually, said the entire team all learned and grew during their time at the DACC.
“I couldn’t imagine us being here two years ago,” he said. “It’s nice having that recognition. … It gives us an edge. Doing this allows us to get further in our careers.”
Noah Young, who placed third individually, said while he is glad he was able to compete, his favorite part was helping DACC Landscape Architecture & Construction instructor Gary Kessler achieve his goal of a first place win for the program.
“I’m a people-pleaser, so I’m glad I could be a part of that,” Young joked.
Beaver added Kessler’s instruction was instrumental in the how the team performed.
“We owe a lot of our victory to Mr. Kessler,” Beaver said. “He gave us the materials, tools and resources necessary to win this competition.”
The students will be recognized at the FFA State Convention on May 6 and will be taking part in the FFA National Competition in October. This will be the landscaping program’s first time participating in the national competition.
The three seniors said they plan to begin working in the landscaping business after they graduate next month, and they hope their real world experience helps them in the fall.
“Any experience is experience,” Beaver said.
Hernandez said he’s been doing landscaping work since he was 13 years old and is excited to continue to compete.
“All that time has really helped me a lot to be where I’m at now,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t know as much as I do without (Kessler).”
Kessler said many employers in the landscaping industry have backgrounds in FFA, and he added the competitions will help boost the students’ resumes.
The FFA State Convention will be held on May 5-6 at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus.