Elmira university student wins horticultural society scholarship

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Blake Doerbecker is the recipient of the $500 scholarship award funded by the Elmira and District Horticultural Society. This award aims to acknowledge students with a strong passion for agriculture or horticulture.

Doerbecker is an Elmira resident entering his third year at the University of Guelph, majoring in landscape architecture. The funds will go towards his tuition. To qualify, applicants are required to submit an essay detailing their past, current and future role in horticulture.

“Blake applied at just the right moment,” said scholarship fund coordinator Karen Smart. “We were impressed with his essay, which expressed not just his appreciation for the beauty of a well-planned garden, but also the psychological benefits and, at the same time, showed an awareness of the ecological considerations that he’ll bring to his designs. From our point of view, it highlighted the growth in insight and awareness that came from his continued studies and illustrates precisely the appreciation and understanding that we hope all of our scholarship winners will achieve.”

Doerbecker’s interest in horticulture runs in the family, as his grandmother, Grace, is a member of the Elmira and District Horticultural Society.

“I’ve always been into outdoors. My mom always does plants around the house and hanging baskets and stuff like that, so I’ve always been around it,” said Doerbecker.

Despite knowing he had an interest in gardening and the outdoors, Doerbecker faced confusion when confronted with the ‘what do you want to do with your life’ question in the twelfth grade.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do. Like no idea,” said Doerbecker with a laugh. “And so the guidance counsellor was kind of like ‘okay, well what are your interests?’ I said ‘I like the outdoors, I played a lot of sports, I like being active and being outside.’ And I took art all the way through high school. She had the idea of doing something that combines all of my interests. She recommended landscape architecture.

So I researched it a little bit, I thought it sounded pretty cool. And I’ve always liked gardens, so I figured. ‘hey, might as well design a couple.’”

Doerbecker mused on the possible career options that he could pursue with the degree, including working at a landscape architecture firm, working in the public sector, and design and planning firms.

“I enjoy the program,” said Doerbecker. “It’s a lot fewer essays and book writing, and it’s more kind of open and design based. So you draw a design, you don’t like it, you scrap it kind of thing – just kind of build off each other. And it’s a nice group. It’s not a big class with 400 people in it – it’s fairly small, so like 60, 70 people so you know everybody in the class. And everybody kind of just bounces ideas off each other.”

The scholarship has been handed out for more than a decade; however, there have been several years where the horticultural society gets no applicants.

“It was originally intended for Woolwich students in their graduating year of high school, who were enrolled in college or university courses involving horticulture or agriculture,” said Smart. “That’s a broad spectrum of possibilities but, even still, there are of course years when we received no applicants. With that in mind, two years ago, the EDHS board of directors decided to extend our target audience by including post-secondary students.”

In the years where the society receives no applications, the money goes to Elmira District Secondary School to be divided equally between the greenhouses and an award of excellence, related to horticultural or agricultural activity, which will be presented to a deserving student at the fall convocation.