A Closer Look at 15 American Floral Endowment Scholarship Winners

American Floral Endowment Scholarships Winners 2019American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently awarded 15 students with scholarships totaling $42,300. The scholarship winners were chosen from among 74 applications received for the 2019 scholarship cycle.

“We had many outstanding students apply for scholarships this year, which is why some scholarships were awarded to two recipients,” says Greg Royer, AFE Education Committee Chair. “I’m excited to see the high quality of students each year and the AFE Board is pleased that AFE is able to award financial assistance to these well-deserved students to help them continue their education and become passionate industry leaders.”


AFE awards scholarships annually and applications are due by May 1 of each year. Scholarship descriptions are available at endowment.org/scholarships.

Here’s a brief look at this year’s winners:

American Florists’ Exchange Scholarship and Vocational (Bettinger, Holden and Perry) Scholarship Recipient: Armando DeLoera, City College of San Francisco

A senior in floriculture, DeLoera is majoring in floristry with a minor in marketing. For the past two years, he has freelanced at Saks Fifth Avenue, where he works on window displays and creates seasonal floral designs. He hopes his studies in business will help him to establish a successful floral business, promoting eco-friendly growing and sustainable practices while helping individuals and communities interested in the floral and environmental industry.

Julio and Sarah Armellini Scholarship Recipient: Abigail Keairns, Murray State University

Seeking a degree in Agriculture Science – Horticulture, Keairns would like to eventually own and run a greenhouse and landscaping operation. She has managed her own lawn and landscaping business since 2012. This summer she is a horticulture/agriculture and natural resources intern with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Ball Horticultural Company Scholarship and Edward Tuinier Memorial Scholarship Recipient: Caleb Spall, Michigan State University

A senior majoring in horticulture with a minor in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, Spall is interested in the use of LED lighting fixtures in floriculture. In addition to his involvement in student horticulture groups, Spall has worked this year as a grower at the Michigan Horticulture Education Foundation, horticulturist at MSU AgBioResearch, and researcher at MSU Floriculture.

Harold Bettinger Scholarship Recipient: Rhiannon Newton, West Virginia University

Newton is entering her senior year completing her agricultural science degree with a major in horticulture and a minor in entrepreneurship. She hopes to be a greenhouse grower after graduation and would like to eventually own a business.

BioWorks IPM/Sustainable Practices Scholarship Recipient: Sage Drohan, Orange Coast College

Drohan is a junior majoring in Landscape Architecture at Orange Coast College, where she focuses on sustainable design and horticulture. Since 2016, Drohan has owned Sage Succulents and Cacti.

James Bridenbaugh Memorial Scholarship and Mike and Flo Novovesky Scholarship Recipient: Alexis Ramstine, Colorado State University

Ramstine is a junior majoring in horticulture business management, with a focus on ornamental plants, fresh cut flower production, and horticulture as an instrument of public health. For the last few years, Ramstine has been employed full-time at Longmont Florist in Longmont, CO.

CalFlowers Scholarship Recipient: Helene Dondero, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

A senior majoring in agricultural science with an emphasis in ornamental horticulture and a minor in agricultural business, Dondero grew up in the floral industry. In addition to working in her family’s business, Fiore Floral and Gifts, Dondero is active in numerous student and industry organizations with CalPoly and FFA.

John Carew Memorial Scholarship Recipient: Mary Lewis, University of Georgia

Lewis expects to complete her master’s degree program in horticulture in December 2019. Her focus is on ornamental plant breeding, specifically eight native Asclepias species.

Earl Dedman Memorial Scholarship and National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA) Scholarship Recipient: Gergely Motolai, Kansas State University

Gergely Motolai is a senior majoring in horticulture science and minoring in entomology. His focus is on in greenhouse production and entomology. Motolai is working at Bird’s Botanicals and at the Kansas State University Greenhouses.

Long Island Flower Growers Association (LIFGA) Scholarship and Long Island Flower Growers Association Bob Gunther Scholarship Recipient: Cassandra Castano, Farmingdale State College

A senior in landscape development at Farmingdale State College majoring in horticulture technology management, Castano is planning further education to become a landscape architect, working on urban projects.

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Recipient: Emily Teng, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Teng is obtaining her Ph.D. in tropical plant and soil sciences, and plans on working in floriculture production and variety improvement research. In her dissertation research, she is analyzing the pigments in poinsettia bracts. Since heat delay is a major obstacle for poinsettia growers in warm climates, her research focuses on the effects of heat delay in poinsettias on anthocyanin production in the bracts.

Lawrence “Bud” Ohlman Memorial Scholarship Recipient: Krishna Bhattarai, University of Florida

Bhattarai expects to complete his Ph.D. in environmental horticulture in December 2019. His focus is on developing resistance to powdery mildew in gerbera daisy and impatiens. Bhattarai hopes to become a plant breeder and develop new cultivars with novel horticultural traits and enhanced disease resistance that is desired by consumer and floriculture industry.

Seed Companies Scholarship Recipient: Erin Pfarr, Rutgers University

Pfarr is completing her Ph.D. in plant biology with an emphasis in plant breeding and genomics at Rutgers University. Her thesis work is focused on big-bracted dogwood genetics and breeding. After having worked on several research projects during her undergraduate and graduate studies, she is particularly interested in breeding for disease and insect resistance, drought tolerance, cold tolerance, noninvasiveness, novel flowering traits such as repeat blooming, and edible ornamental plants.

John L. Tomasovic Sr. Scholarship Recipient: Keslie Robbins, Mississippi State University

A junior at Mississippi State University, Robbins majors in horticulture with a focus in ornamental horticulture. Robbins works at Happy Trails Flower Farm and Twigs Nursery and Landscaping.

Jacob and Rita Van Namen Marketing Scholarship Recipient: Kelly Pohlman, University of Kentucky

A sophomore majoring in horticulture, plant and soil science and minoring in agricultural economics, Pohlman is interested in a career path in floriculture marketing. She was a 4-H member as a young child and this past semester she studied abroad in Argentina.