DOWNINGTOWN, PA — The Chester County Intermediate Unit’s (CCIU) Horticulture program is in full bloom as it grows into a new space. The new Horticulture Center, located on the campus of the CCIU Learning Center in Coatesville, will serve as a collaborative space where students are able to prepare for careers in the horticulture and landscaping industries through hands-on experiences with real clients and community partners. The CCIU celebrated the official opening of its Horticulture Center in Coatesville, PA on Friday, November 19, 2021.
CCIU Board members, Chester County School Authority members, Chester County superintendents, community partners, CCIU administrators, staff and students enjoyed an outdoor ceremony where CCIU Executive Director Dr. George F. Fiore and other community leaders highlighted the opportunities this center will afford to students from across the region.
“I am proud that the CCIU provides spaces like the Horticulture Center for our students, which in turn creates broader opportunities for them to be successful not just during their high school career, but in their future as well. Now more than ever, creating an environment that promotes education of the whole child is incredibly important to ensure that our students achieve the success we know they can,” said Fiore.
Other speakers included Representative Dan Williams, CCIU Board President Bonnie Wolff, CCIU Assistant Executive Director Dr. Steve Gerhard, CCIU Director of Student Services Dr. Siobhan Leavy, CCIU Learning Center Principal Dr. Don Mangan and current Horticulture program student Owen Ziglar, who each spoke of the ways that the CCIU’s Horticulture Center is helping students in Chester County and beyond prepare for future careers through hands-on training and a full complement of support services.
“Over the last four years, I have seen the program move from our old greenhouse into this new building. It has become a new home for me and the other students in the program. I have always loved being outside and this new center has helped me do what I love and learn the skills I need to be successful after I finish school,” said Ziglar, a current student in the Horticulture program.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was followed by student-led tours of the space designed by Breslin Architects. In addition, guests learned about a blossoming partnership between the CCIU Learning Center Horticulture program and the Chester County Food Bank. As part of the program, the students donate fresh vegetables produced in the greenhouses to the Chester County Food Bank.
“Our students have been utilizing our greenhouses to produce food to gain important career skills and help give back to their community. So far, our students have harvested over 30 pounds of lettuce from these new greenhouses, all of which have been donated to the Chester County Food Bank. We hope to continue to grow this partnership as part of our mission to help every student reach their full potential and contribute positively to our society,” said Gerhard.
Since 2013, the CCIU Learning Center has promoted a safe, individualized and supportive learning environment for students who possess unique and diverse needs to support their sustained growth as contributing members of society. As a program option, students in the Horticulture program receive instruction in plant identification, flower arranging, basic greenhouse operation, garden maintenance and marketing for both retail and wholesale business operations. Additionally, students in this program receive instruction and hands-on training in growing and maintaining trees and shrubs, annual flowers, and vegetable plants. Students also gain experience in landscape design and construction.