The back-to-school grant provides practical skills in landscaping and horticulture


The Delaware Center for Horticulture return-to-work program receives a boost from the state’s new reintegration funding program.

A two-year grant from the Attorney General’s Office and the Criminal Justice Council will help the program expand to provide some participants with assistance to pursue graduate studies or start their own businesses.

DCH’s director of programs Ann Mattingly says they’ll start small – trying to work with six graduates the first year and twelve the following year.

“We want to make sure it’s possible to have the capacity to deliver a strong and meaningful program, so we’re intentionally keeping our numbers low,” Mattingly said.

Since 2009, the return to work program has graduated 60 people, many of whom have just been released from prison. More than two-thirds of these people are now employed.

Bob Harris has been the Landscape Supervisor of the Delaware Center for Horticulture since completing the Return to Work program in 2010.

His counselor at the Plummer Center, a level five correctional facility in Wilmington, recommended him for the program.

“I came in to work everyday and acted like I was trying to find a job and they finally hired me shortly after the program ended,” Harris said.

Over five years later, he says he still enjoys coming to work every day.

“I grew up in a family that always cultivated gardens,” Harris said. “My mother had flowers, we always had a vegetable garden. So I had a little know-how to plant trees, because we planted several trees when I was little.

The Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association has approved the program as an introductory horticulture training program.

And the program has received nationwide acclaim, winning the 2014 National Arbor Day Foundation Award for Educational Innovation, recognizing inventive horticultural programming.


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