25 April 2023 – When customers flock to the Fresno State Gibson Farm Market’s huge spring plant sale in two weeks (April 15, 8am-1pm), they owe extra thanks to the campus horticulture unit’s hard-working student assistant like Patrick Velazquez.
The graduating senior from Turlock has put his plant science degree to good use at the Fresno State Nursery in all phases of plant health and production while also applying to community outreach efforts. Much of the year, he volunteers to help teach campus Sanger Unified TARGET program students how to raise plants and vegetables in their campus gardens, and the latter are donated to the Fresno State Amendola Family Student Cupboard.
He has also shared the inner peace that comes from working with plants with others through Fresno State’s Project Rebound. More than half of the CSU universities offer the program, which helps students tied to the criminal justice system establish lasting pro-social pathways to become productive members of society (while reducing recidivism and victimization)
He has also volunteered at Avenal State Prison through the Insight Garden Program, which uses an innovative curriculum composed of gardening, landscaping and horticultural therapy to help those in prison reconnect to self, community and the natural world. This “inner” and “outer” gardening approach transforms lives, ends ongoing cycles of incarceration, and creates safer communities.
Read more about the background of the 2023 #FresnoStateGrad and what’s ahead in this recent interview
Q: How did you pick your degree area?
Velazquez: “I was drawn to plant science because of my love for nature and the outdoors. It has helped harness my curiosity and interest in plants, soils and their role in our lives. Finally, ever since I was a kid, I loved digging and playing in the dirt, and now is my chance to do it as a living.”
Q: Why did you choose to attend Fresno State?
Velazquez: “Fresno State is located in the ‘Heart of the Valley’ and not too far from my family. Furthermore, it’s located in one of the most significant agricultural areas in the world. Hence, the opportunities available here are limitless for plant science majors and others in agriculture. I also chose to attend Fresno State because they have a 1,000-acre campus farm as well as a horticulture unit where I can gain hands-on experiences.”
Q: Do you have any other family members that are Fresno State graduates?
Velazquez: “My brother, Matthew Velazquez, is a registered dietitian and graduated from Fresno State with a degree in dietetics.
Q: Talk about working at the campus horticulture unit and how has it prepared you for your career path?
Velazquez: “I care for many types of plants that are sold at our big spring and fall plant sales as well as every day at the Gibson Farm Market. It has broadened my knowledge of plants and allowed me to explore plants in a whole new way by constantly working alongside them and exchanging information with other members of the horticulture unit. Some skills that I was able to utilize and learn involved watering, germination of plants, transplanting, integrated pest management, pruning, discing, tractor operation, etc. It has helped me gain confidence and reinforced many of the skills and teachings I am learning on my educational journey.”
Q: Have you done any other internships/part-time jobs while at Fresno State, and how did they help you professionally?
Velazquez: “I completed an internship with the non-profit Insight Garden Program and worked as a co-facilitator at Avenal State Prison. The internship helped me professionally by helping me build a strong network of contacts in the community. It has also helped me gain valuable work experience professionally by working hands-on with plants and facilitating and working alongside participants. In addition, the Insight Garden Program internship has helped me with project management, networking, time management, and problem-solving skills.”
Q: Which classes and faculty members have had the biggest influence on you while at Fresno State?
Velazquez: “My biggest influences have been Calliope Correia, Arnold Trevino, and Dr. John Williams. Calliope Correia is the horticulture unit manager at Fresno State, and her passion for people and plants is prevalent in all her work. Calliope has helped me grow as an individual and has helped me gain hands-on experience with plants. Calliope has had a significant role in helping to open doors of opportunity for me. Arnold Trevino’s guidance and mentorship have helped me network and achieve things I could have only dreamed of doing. He has been integral in helping put me in a position to thrive and become the best person I can be. He is always reaching out and constantly presenting me and others with new opportunities for self and community growth; his passion for helping to guide and mentor the formerly incarcerated is something I look up to and admire. Dr. Williams has had a significant influence on my life at Fresno State. He got me involved with Project Rebound, which led to many professional and personal opportunities. Dr. Williams is always available to his students and tries to get to know his students, which makes for a more meaningful teaching experience. He exhibits great patience and is genuinely invested in helping students learn and grow on their educational path.”
Q: Are you a part of any clubs or organizations at Fresno State?
Velazquez: “I have served as an officer for the Fresno State Irrigation Club as its secretary. I’m also part of the Plant Science Club on campus and a member of Project Rebound.”
Q: Have you participated in any other outreach activities/ volunteer events that benefited the community?
Velazquez: “I volunteer every week to help the Sanger Adult Transition Program on its visits to the Fresno State Horticulture Unit and assist them in the garden. Doing this helps provide opportunities for the post-high school students to grow in skills related to working, learning, living, and playing. I also volunteer as a member of Project Rebound. I help to do outreach at community events such as AA/NA events. I helped bring awareness to those in sober living communities and others in the community about the opportunities for formerly incarcerated peoples at Fresno State and show them how Project Rebound can help assist and support them in their higher education goals. I have also volunteered for Trunk or Treat and Christmas gift giveaways put on by the Fresno police department. These events helped underprivileged communities have a safe and fun holiday season.”
Q: What is your background in agriculture before you started at Fresno State?
Velazquez: “I had no agricultural background before Fresno State.”
Q: Have you received any scholarships related to campus, the Jordan College and/or Ag One?
Velazquez: “I am honored to have received the Tom Ishimoto Memorial Agricultural Scholarship for agriculture majors with a preference for those in plant science.”
Q: Have you been a part of other additional professional development experiences and events?
Velazquez: “I have attended conferences and given presentations and have assisted in community events like the Recovery Summit of Fresno/Clovis Area for Project Rebound
and IGP with Arnold Trevino, the Outreach Coordinator at Fresno State Project Rebound. I also traveled to The NCHEP (National Conference For Higher Education in Prison) in Denver, Colorado for a four-day conference to represent Fresno State and Project Rebound. I have also presented to the Plant Science Club about my work in prison with the Insight Garden Program and opportunities within the organization. I also presented to Fresno
City Community College with Mr. Trevino at the Rising Scholars Symposium and talked about Project Rebound and IGP.”
Q: Have you overcome any challenges to get where you are today that have shaped who you are ?
Velazquez: “I have overcome some major challenges in my life. By the time I was in high school, I was battling with an opiate/heroin addiction that continued for about six years. My actions led to more challenges, such as homelessness. Eventually, my choices had me doing multiple terms in the prison at the California Department of Corrections, and numerous arrests accompanied that. I had to overcome some overwhelming odds to get to where I am today. I had to do a complete 180-degree turn in my life and learn how to become a functioning, positive member of society and care for myself and others. The challenges I faced have helped me to gain an understanding and appreciation for so many things. I no longer choose to let opportunities slip by; I take full advantage of the opportunities and changes that come my way and use my past as fuel for my future. I know where I have been, where I want to be, and the challenges I faced only made me stronger and more resilient.”
Q: What’s your potential next career step, and how do you plan to use your degree eventually?
Velazquez: “I plan to pursue my CCA (Certified Crop Advisor) certification and work as an advisor for a local company in the Central Valley. In addition to learning more about horticultural therapy, which is a key part of the Insight Garden Program, I plan to use my degree to help spread awareness and knowledge of plants and the natural world to make this planet a better place for all by starting a small-scale sustainable farm where people can come and learn how to work with plants rather than against them.”
Source : https://jcast.fresnostate.edu/
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