Sugar Grove resident and College of DuPage horiculture student Elaina Blankenhagen recently won first place in the individual category in a video competition hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the college announced in a news release. Blankenhagen received $250 for her winning submission.
“Winning this contest is a great accomplishment,” Blankenhagen said in the release. “Knowing hundreds, maybe even thousands of people in the industry will get to hear my story is so amazing. The fact that the NALP chose my video to be shown at the National Collegiate Landscape design competition’s opening ceremony is truly honorable. In addition, the landscape architect industry consists of a majority of males. Being able to share my female voice among the industry is a small step in my goal to reach the finish line.”
The National Association of Landscape Professionals represents nearly 100,000 landscape professionals in the U.S., Canada and the world. The trade organization provides education , training and certification to landscape professionals.
Blankenhagen completed general education classes at Waubonsee Community College before starting at COD in fall 2018. She hopes to one day become a licensed landscape architect and to help promote female leadership roles in the industry.
“A female landscape architect at the COD Horticulture Career Fair said to me, ‘You have no idea how many times I’ve been asked if I am the wife of someone at the company. They are amazed when I tell them I am the boss’,” she said in the release. “My goal is to be a well-known female landscape architect and change the industry's primarily male standards. I hope to inspire other young women like myself one day.”
Blankenhagen said she was drawn to horticulture through a lifelong love of nature and experiences she had in high school.
“I come from a long line of nature lovers. When I was a little girl I would go on nature walks with my dad, his dad, and his dad’s dad. On our walks, they would teach me all about plants, rocks and animals,” she said in the release. “When I was a freshman in high school, I took an introduction to horticulture class which is where I truly discovered my passion for the field. As a junior, I took a more advanced horticulture class through the Fox Valley Career Center. In this class, we did Landscape designs and the first design I ever made won second place in the High School Hand-Drawn segment of the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association Landscape Design Contest. After that I decided landscape design was something I could imagine myself doing till the end of my days.”
Blankenhagen is planning to graduate from COD in 2020 with an A.A.S. degree in Landscape Contracting and Management, as well as certificates in Horticulture, Landscape Design and Construction, and Nursery and Garden Center Management.