HOPE logo


Provide college students with an opportunity to experience the Illinois Green Industry with a "hands-on" approach, to prepare them for careers in Horticulture.


To build relationships between students and the Illinois Green Industry - a great opportunity for learning and making professional connections for the future.  The program helps students make decisions about their career focus through hands-on experiences and provides employers with knowledgeable personnel. 

Since 1979, the Illinois Green Industry Association has been providing college students with an opportunity to experience the nursery and landscape industry in Illinois with a “hands-on” approach to prepare them for careers in horticulture.

Top students are selected from participating schools to take part in the H.O.P.E. program, for which they receive credit. From September through early spring, students are provided business work experiences and educational opportunities that will give them an advance start on their career. Each month of the program participating students devote two full days to the H.O.P.E. program, providing them a better understanding of the inner workings of a typical green industry business.  

HOPE group photo

Testimonials from H.O.P.E. Participants

I give this program a ‘two-thumbs’ up. I have been interviewing for internships/employment and almost every employer who has interviewed me has participated in the HOPE program while they were in school! I myself have had an eye-opening, outstanding experience. Thank you to all involved that make this program happen….this student is truly grateful! 

Through participation in the program I have an internship with Midwest Groundcovers for the summer, and I am over the moon about the whole thing. Knowing that I wouldn't be where I am now (or am going) if it wasn't for the IGIA and the HOPE program! 

What Can Students Expect at a Host Site

Erin Scott, Former Student 
Kishwaukee College
Visit to Platt Hill Nursery

      Former College of DuPage Students    
Visit to Cantigny Park

Former Central and Northern
Program Participants 
Visit to Home Nursery &
Hoffie Nursery

Emily Jensen, Former Student
College of DuPage
Visit to Hinsdale Nurseries
Chris Hanson, Former Student
Kishwaukee College
Visit to Hinsdale Nurseries

Tammy Cerveny, Former Student
Kishwaukee College
Visit to Jack Pizzo & Associates 

Julie Peden, Former Student
Joliet Junior College
Visit to Kankakee Nursery


Student Participant Requirements

• Show enthusiasm and interest
• Be on time
• Follow the guidelines your host sets forth
• Be courteous and professional
• Be prepared to actually work (up to 2 hours on one activity)
• Bring the proper equipment - warm clothing, rain gear, boots, gloves, etc.
• Conduct yourself appropriately while at host locations
• Thank your hosts and understand the commitment the nursery makes to ensure this is an effective program. It takes planning and effort for the hosts to prepare for the program. This opportunity is not offered in this depth to everyone. 

Example Work Experiences

• Safety: Learn how to tie down a load, how to hook up equipment, general safety techniques for power equipment, pruning equipment, fertilizers and pesticides, etc.
• Production: Start to finish stages of production of material (propagation, cuttings, pruning, spacing, digging, over-wintering techniques, etc.)
• Facilities: Greenhouses, hoop houses, pump houses, irrigation facilities, retail spaces, potting sheds, sales offices, etc.
• Order Processing: From order entry through pulling and preparing orders for shipment or pickup
• Other: Inventory, Specialty Equipment, Sales/Marketing, Administration
• Luncheon topics may include:

    • Business Tips
    • Dos & Don’t in the Business
    • Industry Trends
    • Time for student Q&A and networking