May 15, 2011
The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) Student Career Days in the U.S. is a four-day annual competition among students enrolled in horticulture college programs.  

This year a team from the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture was the lone Canadian team among the 800 students from 68 colleges in 28 individual and team competitions at the 35th annual competition held at Joliet Community College, in Joliet, Ill., from Mar. 17 to 20.

A small team of three Niagara students made themselves well known by winning the coveted “Best School Cheer” at the opening ceremonies. With props and poem, the trio let the U.S. students know that Team Canada had arrived. John Deere awarded the winning cheer with a donation that will allow Niagara Parks Commission School to send an additional student to next year’s event. It was reported that all the U.S. students rose and applauded the selection.    

Individually, first year student, Leslie van de Ven, competed in leadership skills and exterior landscape design; second year student, Garret Van Santen, competed in the sales presentation and skid steer operations events, while second year student, Laura McCaul competed in the construction cost estimating event. The Niagara crew also entered team competitions for landscape plant installation, arboriculture techniques and paver installation. The students are already working on fundraising and seeking sponsorships to send a larger delegation next year, at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., near the end of March.

Anyone interested in sponsoring a student to the competition, contact Darrell Bley at, or 905-356-8554, ext. 252.

For more information on the Student Career Days, go to