In the fall of last year, an inmate from Manning Correctional Institution wrote a letter addressed to the York County Extension Agent asking for literature about landscaping because he wanted to work in that field when he is released and wanted to learn everything he could to be prepared to get a job in the landscaping industry.
This sparked an idea to offer an online course that our statewide horticulture team put together a few years ago, the South Carolina Certified Landscape Professional program. Within the day of receiving the letter, contact was established with the Division of Programs, Reentry and Rehabilitative Services, with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Over the spring of this year, we had several discussions with them to work out logistics and details, and on June 21, we launched the pilot course live and online.
The SCDOC recruited 40 inmates to participate in this pilot course. The course lasted ten weeks, and participants received instruction in basic horticultural skills such as soils and fertility, plant identification, urban tree management, irrigation, low impact development, weed management, lawn management, and integrated pest management concepts to reduce pesticide use. There were a total of four sites that participated via zoom. Most participants were engaged and asked multiple questions, including how this certification can help them find gainful employment. The project was funded by an internal grant from Clemson University Cooperative Extension Innovation Grant for improving existing programs.
Classes have just ended, and they have not yet taken the certification exam but will be doing so in a few weeks giving them time to study the materials. Look for an update in our next newsletter.
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