FIRST Spotlights Scholarship Winners

December 9, 2005 - 08:37

As part of its efforts to bring young floriculture professional to the industry, FIRST is spotlighting some of its 2005 scholarship winners. The following winners are from the U.S. Central Region and were recently spotlighted in the FIRST newsletter.

Jessica Ritter received the Ball Horticultural Company Scholarship in the amount of $1,000. Jessica is entering her junior year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in horticulture with an emphasis on floriculture production. Upon graduation, Jessica plans to work for an established production greenhouse and ultimately open her own greenhouse business.

Also a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ryan Pekarek is entering his senior year, majoring in horticulture with an emphasis on floriculture production. Ryan currently owns and operates a market garden: Pekarek's Produce in Dwight, Neb. Ryan received the Richard E. Barrett Scholarship for pursuing a career in education and research. Upon graduation in May 2006, Ryan plans to pursue his Master's of Science Degree, eventually becoming a university professor.

Stephanie Forret is attending a 2-year vocational horticulture program at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stephanie is currently focusing on floral design and plans to complete the landscape design program next year. After graduation, Stephanie plans on pursuing a career as a greenhouse manager.

Julia Brotton is a senior in the horticulture program at Oklahoma State University. Her focus is on floriculture and post-harvest research. Last year Julia attended classes at the University of INHOLLAND located in The Netherlands and completed an internship at a floral shop located in Rotterdam. Julia's ultimate goal is to open her own florist shop that is innovative and affordable.

Nicole Leiser is entering her senior year at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where she is majoring in horticulture production with an emphasis in greenhouse management. Upon graduation in May 2006, Nicole is planning on starting her own greenhouse production operation, specializing in wholesale bedding plants and cut flowers.

Kory Beidler is a graduate student at Iowa State University working towards a Masters Degree in horticulture and Masters of Business Administration. He received the Mike and Flo Novovesky Scholarship, which helps young married students pay for their education. Kory's career goal is to teach business curriculum to undergraduate landscape students at a college level.

Matt Novak is entering his senior year at Kansas State University where is majoring in horticulture. Upon graduation in May 2006, Matt plans to continue operating and expand the greenhouse business he started while in college. The business, Modoc Miracles, specializes in bedding plants, potted floral crops, aquatics and commercial vegetable production.

Scholarship Reviewers Needed

FIRST is in need of reviewers. FIRST administers more than 25 individually named scholarships, each with their own specific set of criteria. Each scholarship fund has a committee comprised of 3-6 industry members who read and score scholarship applications submitted each year.

The time commitment is minimal but occurs at a busy time of the year for most, mid-May through mid-June. The review process is completely electronic, applications are accessed through the Internet and scores are submitted via E-mail. Reviewers typically read and score an average of 10 applications each year.

For more a complete list of the 2005 scholarship winners as well as more information about being a FIRST reviewer visit

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