Back to School: Landscape students help at Arlington Cemetery

Adam Stires spreads lime at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. The Madison-Plains High School student was one of five teens in the turf, landscape and greenhouse management program at Tolles to participate in the community service project.

Landscape students at Tolles Career and Technical Center were the first high schoolers to participate in “Renewal and Remembrance” at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

More than 400 landscape and lawn care specialists representing 107 companies from 27 states volunteered their time July 21 to mulch, prune, lime, plant and aerate the cemetery’s grounds. Crews also performed work at the Historic Congressional Cemetery. All participants are members of Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

“PLANET has done this for 12 years, but this is the first time ever that high school kids have taken part,” said Jim Scott, an instructor in the turf, landscape and greenhouse management program at Tolles. Students in the class are members of PLANET.

Always on the lookout for ways to excite students about job opportunities, Scott invited current and incoming students to participate in the community service project. The five who did are: Adam Stires of Madison-Plains and Taylor Pierron of Hilliard-Darby, who will be seniors this year, and Nick Marshall of Madison-Plains, Jordan Byers of Jonathan Alder, and Ben Robinson of Jonathan Alder, who will be juniors.

“I’ve been working with all of them throughout the summer on landscaping projects,” said Scott. “A lot of the work has been on the school grounds, including the one-hole golf course we built here. They also do some individual jobs to get weekend money.”

Jordan Byers of Jonathan Alder High School helps to spread lime at Arlington Cemetery.

The three-day trip to Washington, D.C., was a chance for the students to broaden their horizons.

“It showed them that the world is bigger than their little part of Hilliard or London or wherever it might be,” Scott said.

In addition to working at the cemeteries, the students met with Sen. George V. Voinovich for a photo opportunity and to talk about agricultural and educational issues. Scott also arranged a private tour for his students of the Washington Nationals professional baseball field. The head groundskeeper filled them in on related job opportunities.

Networking and careers weren’t the only focus of the trip. Scott also wanted the students to learn what’s good about helping other people and serving your community.

“When we got to Arlington Cemetery and they were walking through the graves and doing work, they took on a whole new persona,” Scott said of the students. “It hit home that there are men and women close to their age out serving their country.”

Scott believes in the Woody Hayes’ philosophy of “paying it forward”—doing something for someone else with the hope that they will, in turn, do the same for another person. He thinks his students got that concept in D.C.

“They made a difference. Hopefully, they’ve got that idea for life and can figure out how to bring it back home,” he said.

Tolles Career and Technical Center is located at 7877 U.S. Hwy. 42 S. in Plain City.

The Tolles contingent meets with Senator George Voinovich (center).

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