Carving out careers

Agri-science student Jake Kimbrell cuts a board to be used in a workbench at Nation Ford High School on Monday.
Agri-science student Jake Kimbrell cuts a board to be used in a workbench at Nation Ford High School on Monday.

FORT MILL -- Some Nation Ford High School teenagers are discovering their turf in a unique golf course technology course, a class preparing them for more advanced study of golf course and sports turf management.

Next semester, they can proceed to turf grass and irrigation, which they will practice on the school lawn behind their shop.

"This course is designed to give students an idea of all things mechanical in the golf industry, which includes maintenance," their teacher Jacques LeCour said of golf course technology. "They are learning carpentry skills, small engines, welding, plumbing, hydraulics and some electrical skills. It's designed to teach ... students basic practices so when they go to more advanced certification programs they will have a heads up."

Last week, LeCour, the school's enthusiastic "agriculture educator" who does not look much older than the teenagers, kept close tabs on students using electric saws to make poplar cutting boards, which they sanded and oiled for holiday gifts. Some had already begun creating workbenches for the classroom.

The class is one example of the state's push to encourage students to think and prepare for careers at younger ages. In this career cluster, the students took an agri-science class their freshman year.

The classroom shop is equipped with riding mowers and other equipment for next semester's turf grass class, which will include instruction on differences in seasonal grasses, fertilizer, pesticides, disease and insects and establishing turf lawn both for sports and for homes. Last week, they toured a Jacobsen plant in Charlotte, where they learned more about a variety of turf grass equipment.

Several students said they are taking the class with a career in mind.

Addison Berry, a junior, said managing large sports fields would be his ideal job. He wants to study agriculture specializing in turf lawn at the University of South Carolina.

"I've always done sports," he said, "and I wanted to do something around it for a career. I want to be a turf grass specialist."

T.J. Everett, a Nation Ford basketball team sophomore, said he wants to work outdoors, perhaps own a business in turf grass management. He, too, plans to attend a four-year college.

Lauren Malone, a junior and the only girl in the class, is studying horticulture and considering college at Winthrop University. She's on the girls' golf team and would like to teach physical education with an emphasis on golf.

"It's kind of weird being the only girl," she said, and she recommends more girls take the course.

LeCour, a Fort Mill High graduate of 2002, earned an associate degree at Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton, Ga., and his bachelor's degree in agricultural education at Clemson University.

Most turf grass courses are offered in schools along the state's resort coast, but LeCour thinks the time has come for more turf grass management training in this area. He hopes the school eventually can offer certification in various agriculture and turf grass specialties. He also would like to develop dual credit high school-college courses in conjunction with York Technical College.

"We are developing a curriculum that would include a golf course honors management course," he said.