JJC Floral Design Team Wins Third Place in the Nation

Pictured from left to right are: Shannon Augustine, Kaitlyn Harlow, Gabriela Ortega, Rachel Cisco and Donna Theimer.

The Joliet Junior College floral design team was awarded third place in the nation at the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) annual student competition held between June 26 and July 2 in Las Vegas, Nev. 

JJC students on the floral design team also received top individual awards. They include: Shannon Augustine of Naperville, Ill., who was named fourth place for overall designer in the nation, and also won second place for bridal bouquet; Kaitlyn Harlow of Kinsman, Ill., who was named fifth place for overall designer in the nation and also won fourth place for bridal bouquet and fifth place for body flowers; and Rachel Cisco of Seneca, Ill., who won fifth place for sympathy flowers. Student Gabriela Ortega of Berwyn, Ill. also participated in the competition. 

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Donna Theimer, professor and department chair of the Horticulture and Agriculture Department, said the competition was very nerve-wracking – especially for her. 

“I get very anxious, like a very nervous mother,” the adviser said, as she described watching the students that she has had in class all year compete for major awards. 

This year, students from 14 colleges and universities with top floral design programs competed in five competitions with 45-minute time limits. Participants each got a four-by-six table containing surprise materials they were required to work with.

 Although Theimer helped the JJC students practice ahead of time, it was up to the students on how they wanted to use the provided materials. 

“I always tell them there’s no way I could even do that,” Theimer said.  “It’s very intense. Somebody calls the time, fifteen minutes, then ten minutes, five minutes. It raises my blood pressure.” 

Students arrived in Las Vegas on June 26. The weeklong adventure began with a day of instructions, a day of competition, and multiple days of learning with the floral design company, Fitz Design. Students learned how to make unique and wearable floral pieces, and even got the chance to model them at a luncheon. 

“They meet and talk to national and international designers,” Theimer added. “The level of design is beyond anything I could ever show them in the classroom. It’s something that every time I walk out there – I’m extremely proud of the design ideas that come out of these girls.” 

Theimer said she was proud of her students, especially because this was the first time any of them had been to a national floral competition. 

JJC has been participating in the AIFD contest for the past 10 years. In 2011, the JJC team won first in the nation, and two students tied for first place for overall in the nation. Last year, the JJC team won second in the nation, one student received first place overall in the nation, and another won third place overall in the nation. 

For more information about JJC’s floral design and plantscape management program, visit www.jjc.edu/academics/divisions/career-technical/agriculture-horticulture/hort.

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