Amidst the usual din of educational activity, and tucked into a particularly green and colorful patch of garden loveliness on campus, Florida’s nursery and landscape industry welcomed two newcomers into its ranks in August.
Amy Puccio and Eric Estores were awarded the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association Certified Horticulture Professional certification during a special graduation ceremony which took place at the University of Florida’s Wilmot Gardens.
Puccio and Estores earned their certification as part of the Gardens’ Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Job Skills Training Program.
The program’s goal is to “enhance the likelihood of young adults with ASD to secure full-time, paid employment that will eventually lead to a successful transition to independent living,” according to the program’s website.
Charles Guy, Ph.D, a professor emeritus in the Department of Environmental Horticulture at UF, served as tutor for the students.
‘I look forward to seeing both Amy and Eric put their new knowledge to work inside our industry,” Guy said at the ceremony.
Both graduates said they would like to pursue a career in the horticulture industry.
Upon receiving her framed certification, Puccio remarked, “I enjoyed taking the course.”
Puccio also told the gathered crowd that the training helped her uncover a skill she didn’t know she possessed.
“She was thoroughly excited when she was working in the greenhouse,” Yvette Puccio, Amy’s mom, said at the ceremony. “It’s exciting.”
Estores, an accomplished songbird artist, explained he particularly enjoyed the plant identification portion of the training. He added he hopes to work more in pruning roses and jasmine in future.
“I’m very proud of him,” Irene Estores, Eric’s mother, said at the ceremony. “He’s always loved nature.”