July 15, 2012
Rob Tester
Rob Tester
Rob Tester of TNT Property Maintenance in Kitchener has set up a program to help local high school students learn about horticulture and environmental stewardship.

For the last 10 years, Tester, who is president of the Waterloo Chapter, has made it part of his business philosophy to bring horticultural expertise to the secondary school curriculum and create opportunities for young people to excel in this industry.

From founding the Annual Regional Landscape Skills Competition for Secondary Students to chairing the Waterloo Region District School Board’s landscape/horticulture advisory council, or organizing Skills Ontario competitions for landscape students, Tester thrives on seeing young men and women blossom into avid horticulturists as they immerse themselves into the hands-on world of landscaping.

“Helping to give these kids an opportunity to learn about environmental stewardship and about creating living, growing spaces and knowing that some of them will continue this as a career or as a life-long hobby, is very fulfilling,” says Tester. He employees 12 landscape specialists in his property maintenance business, including two apprentices straight from high school.

Tester created a new way to help Kitchener Collegiate Institute (KCI) with its green industries program. Having adopted KCI as a school to assist (Tester also provides a landscape scholarship for a worthy student entering apprenticeship), he knew that with educational funding cuts, the horticulture program did not have the equipment needed to meet the demand.

In order to help purchase the equipment and feed the program requirements, Tester implemented a loyalty program this year that sees a two per cent rebate of the dollar value of KCI supporter purchases from TNT Property being donated to the school’s green industries program.

“People will feel good about making a difference simply by purchasing landscaping products or services they were buying anyway,” says Tester. “It’s a proverbial win-win situation.”

Pat Rittinger, head of the KCI’s Green Industries program, says his class has grown in popularity since it was first proposed by the local landscape industry eight years ago. While most students taking the class go on to college or university for other programs, the hands-on nature of the green industries class is hugely appreciated.

Students learn everything from landscaping and school property maintenance to planting and maintaining an orchard, a community garden, operating a green house and selling the produce at a market day with funds put back into the program’s operating costs.

There are over 200 students taking part in this program. “My entire budget from the school board is only $2,200 for the whole year,” said Rittinger. “We couldn’t do it without TNT Property’s help and this loyalty rebate program will help us buy feed for the animals, seed, fertilizer, shovels and the equipment the kids need in this class.”

Rittinger estimates that four or five students go on each year to choose a green industry as their career, while hundreds more have a new appreciation and knowledge of environmental stewardship.

Supporters of KCI can obtain loyalty cards through the school, or TNT Property Maintenance in Kitchener. “Other  schools, churches or organizations or associations can also set up their own loyalty program through TNT Property so their cause can benefit as well,” says Tester.  

More information on the loyalty program can be found at http://bit.ly/MPYicc.