November 15, 2008
The name Landscape Ontario was front and centre when the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and Niagara Catholic District School Board officially announced the Niagara GROWS Educational Partnership on September 26.

The partnership is the first of its kind in Canada, providing high school students with an opportunity to study horticulture and landscaping, while earning the new Ministry of Education Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) designation. The program is designed to assist students with the transition from secondary school to apprenticeship training, college, university, or the workplace.

The partners were proud that students will study on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, an institution recognized internationally for its expertise in teaching horticulture. Jim Williams, chair of The Niagara Parks Commission, said, “This partnership between Niagara Catholic and NPC is intended to lead to the further development of a horticulture program for secondary students throughout Niagara.” He lauded both LO and CNLA for fostering the program.

Niagara Catholic’s director of education John Crocco said that the program is available to all students across the Niagara Catholic board. “As a school board we are extremely appreciative of this unique partnership. The experiences at Niagara Parks will provide our students with a strong foundation to further their post secondary studies or directly enter the world of work.”

Niagara Catholic Board installed a portable classroom adjacent to the Butterfly Conservatory within the Niagara Parks Commission’s Botanical Gardens.

Once sanctioned by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), Niagara Parks will be considered a future test site for the modular testing format for the CHT program. This test will be made available to all industry members, as well as secondary students enrolled in the horticulture and landscaping SHSM program.

One Niagara Catholic student received lots of attention during the official ceremonies. Christopher Bemke became the first to graduate with a Specialist High Schools Major in Horticulture. He achieved the final component of the SHSM as part of the provincial examination conducted by Landscape Ontario. With the SHSM designation, Bemke was accepted into the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture for March 2009.

Terry Murphy, LO’s retired manager of human resource development, took part in the official document signing and the ceremony to open the classroom.

Niagara Catholic’s program focuses on greenhouse management, product development, landscape design, construction, installation and maintenance. SHSM students must pass three practical stations of the CHT test to work towards gaining their CHT certification.

Caption: In photo, about to cut the wreath to officially open the classroom, are from left, Terry Murphy of Landscape Ontario, Jim Williams, chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission, student Christopher Bemke, John Crocco, director of education of the Niagara Catholic District School Board, and Ed Niewesteeg, chairman of the school board.