Mauri Ellingson has always had a passion for plants and people. She has spent a majority of her life enjoying her vegetable and flower gardens.
After two decades working at various jobs, including 10 years as a certified pedorthist (a footwear specialist), Ellingson, 41, enrolled as a full-time student at San Juan College to turn her passion into a career.
Since she began classes in January of 2008, she has maintained her full-time status, and currently holds a 4.0 GPA. “It has been a learning experience, since I haven’t been in a formal classroom setting for well over 20 years,” Ellingson says.
Even though it may have been awhile since she last attended school, she has excelled as a student and workstudy in the College’s greenhouse and herbarium. In April, she was presented a San Juan College Student Excellence Award in Horticulture for the School of Science.
“Mauri is a bright, motivated and dedicated student, who has been a valuable asset to the growth of the horticulture program,” says Don Hyder, San Juan College associate professor of biology. “She has a great capacity to care for the environment and people.”
Ellingson plans to take her enthusiasm for horticulture and combine it with her desire to help disadvantaged people by studying to become a horticultural therapist. Horticultural therapy utilizes plants and activities to improve social, educational, psychological and physical conditions of people.
“I have always been happiest working in the garden,” Ellingson smiles. “If I do what I love, I’ll never work a day of my life.”
She also hopes to be involved in organizing community gardens, growing food locally and giving people the power to sustain their own food source.
“It is rewarding to create gardens to give disadvantaged people the opportunity to grow their own food, while beautifying spaces,” Ellingson says. “I love people, I love plants – working in horticultural therapy would give me the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”
She expects to graduate from San Juan College in May 2011 with associate’s degrees in horticulture and liberal arts. She plans to continue her education at a four-year institution and earn a bachelor’s degree in social work.