By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
While it may be difficult to measure, researchers note that there is a connection between an area’s physical appearance and its economic picture. Let’s make a comparison … suppose you are going for a job interview; you want to make a good first impression so you take extra measures to ensure that your appearance speaks for itself. By the same token, a quick glance at a city’s streetscape can speak volumes as well, so a community’s ‘perception’ is not to be neglected.
Last year, the City of Clarksburg affiliated itself with the agriculture departments of two local schools – Robert C. Byrd High School and Liberty High School. The project, called “City In Bloom”, utilized the talents and skills of students involved in each of these schools’ FFA programs. With the leadership of their teachers, the students planted and nurtured flowers and plants in their greenhouses and arranged them in hanging baskets to be displayed throughout Clarksburg’s downtown area.
According to Dominique Spatafore, Marketing and Community Relations Specialist for the City of Clarksburg, it was a huge success last year. “We are very excited to continue our association with these local schools again this year. They have provided us with 80 hanging baskets in our business district that enhance the visual appeal of our city streets while at the same time giving the students an opportunity to actively take part in community beautification,” she stated.
This year, students made a few changes, adding new varieties of hardy petunias, spikes of dracaena for height and dimension, and sweet potato vines to provide foliage color variation.
Liberty High School’s AgEd teacher Brianne McCauley noted that she was glad to see the partnership with the City continue this year. “We have a new group of students this year who were able to participate and learn not only about producing plants, but choosing, maintaining and caring for them. It is rewarding for the students to see the project from start to finish and see the fruits of their labor displayed on the light poles throughout the City,” she commented.
Steve Gibson, Principal of Robert C. Byrd High School, explained that while FFA participants learn about plant growth, they are also taught business aspects such as inventory, profits and loss and leadership. Gibson said the students’ affiliation with the City of Clarksburg has also been an excellent way to reciprocate.
“The City was kind enough to show us their support when we undertook our turf project, so this was a great way for our students to return the favor by supporting the community in return,” Gibson said. “Add to that, seeing their baskets exhibited throughout the downtown area is a great source of pride for the students as well.”
Schools are “learning communities” in and of themselves. The students’ affiliation with Clarksburg’s “City In Bloom” project has served a dual purpose, giving them more than greenhouse experience, but also the opportunity to become involved in their community.
Spatafore concluded, “The City looks forward to this becoming an ongoing relationship with our local schools’ FFA programs. The hanging baskets certainly enhance the visual appearance of our city and give the city the opportunity to showcase the work our students have produced. It is a partnership that we hope will continue to make Clarksburg’s business district welcoming and stronger.”
Watering and upkeep of the hanging baskets will be maintained by the City’s Public Work’s Department.
City officials will meet with the students and their teachers prior to this evening’s City Council meeting to honor and thank them for a job well done.