Student Spotlight brings you the perspectives of horticulture students and insights into the future of the industry.
Diana Fetters didn’t start chasing her college degree until her kids were finished with education of their own.
A recent graduate of Piedmont Technical College in South Carolina, Fetters married young and “did it backward,” she jokes. She’s the mother to two boys who recently completed high school, but she stayed at home as they grew up to raise them. She decided a few years ago to go back and finish the schooling she sacrificed when her boys were little.
“When we had babies, we dedicated everything to our children. We wanted to give them a great life and teach them all the good lessons,” Fetters says. “Once they started school and I had a lot of free time on my hands, I told my husband, ‘Baby, I’m going to have to do something because I’m going to go stir crazy sitting in this house.’ You can’t do but so many dishes.”
Fetters knew she wanted to go to school – she just didn’t know for what. She got some difficult general education courses out of the way in her first semester at Piedmont as she decided, like Spanish and statistics, but she eventually found horticulture as a possibility. She had mowed and weeded and even grew some plants over the years – she can still recall the spider plant she grew at age 15 – but her teacher, Daniel Greenwell, pushed the prospects of making this a career.
At one point, Fetters was an electrician but quit because the job was going to become too physical over time on her body. She had also worked plenty of odd jobs between childbirth and today, but none have stuck quite like horticulture.
“This is my career now – this is what I chose,” Fetters says. “I had never put a lot of thought into the actual designing of the landscapes, but Daniel, my teacher, he really opened my eyes to all the different careers there are in the green industry.”
Now, Fetters works full-time for the city of Greenwood, South Carolina, and just helped the community with another installment of its two largest festivals. They host the South Carolina Festival of Flowers in June and, shortly after, the Festival of Discovery in July. The city’s a member of the America in Bloom program and has won awards through it in the past.
Fetters has had the job since last fall and continued to work full time through graduation. The job can be taxing – she helps raise 42 types of topiaries throughout the year and they only sit out for two months before going back to the greenhouse. Still, the rigors of the work mean the product is of the highest quality.
Well, close to it.
“We have a topiary display that is just below Disney,” Fetters says. “I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but I was really, really impressed with this thing.”
Although she just completed her time at Piedmont, Fetters is still “exhilarated” with how the process went. She hopes to one day manage a greenhouse – maybe even one in Greenwood – and that experience will show her if pursuing horticulture was worth it. Until then, she’ll only speak positively about school and has no regrets with her decision to return.
“Going to school as an older person, I’ve had so much more appreciation for the school experience,” Fetters says. “It’s been really wonderful for me.”