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Students test landscaping knowledge

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North Stafford High School teacher Steve Rossi helps students (Blaine Nelson, Amanda Campisi, Danilo Scott) with stone placement in the courtyard of Eileen’s on Sunday, June 8. (RICH JOHNSON for THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

North Stafford High School teacher Steve Rossi helps students (Blaine Nelson, Amanda Campisi, Danilo Scott) with stone placement in the courtyard of Eileen’s on Sunday, June 8. (RICH JOHNSON for THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

The patio stones don’t fit perfectly into the corners. They have to be rotated, and some of the gaps will be filled with custom-cut pieces.

The four North Stafford High School landscaping students working on the project take the situation in stride and continue leveling the sand and adding more stones.

Their teacher, Steve Rossi, says obstacles often crop up on such projects.

“Sometimes, you just have to modify on the fly,” Rossi said.

RICH JOHNSON FOR THE FREE LANCE-STARStudents from the landscaping class at North Stafford High spent two weekends installing a patio, flower boxes and benches outside Eileen’s Bakery and Café in downtown Fredericksburg.

NSHS seniors Amanda Campisi, Andrea Dowdell and Blaine Nelson, and junior Danilo Scott worked with Rossi to finish the patio early Sunday.

The project, born from a conversation between bakery owner Trista Couser and Rossi, began in January.

“He mentioned how proud he was of his students and the class, and I asked if they wanted to do some work at Eileen’s,” Couser said. “Now these kids are doing something that will last.”

Rossi, who teaches the horticultural sciences and landscaping courses at North Stafford High, said that he wanted to provide the students with a real-world experience.

“They interviewed [Couser] and went through all the steps of design that a landscaper would go through with a client,” he said.

The students said it was a great opportunity to collaborate on something that had a tangible result.

Capisi, who hopes to become an entrepreneur and landscape professionally, said that they were able to incorporate the group’s ideas.

“It was good working with each other,” Dowdell said.

As the patio came together, Nelson said that some “finagling” had been necessary, but it was overall going very well.

While watching the students’ progress, Couser said the project was a great way for Rossi’s class to work with a local business.

“Because of his class, the face of my building is helping to add more beauty to downtown Fredericksburg,” Couser said. “That really makes a difference.”

This was the second public project for the seven students in Rossi’s landscaping class, who had also carried out landscaping projects at North Stafford.

Rossi, the husband of Free Lance–Star photographer Suzanne Carr Rossi, said the course provided the design expertise the kids needed. They put that instruction to the test over the two weekends of work, which involved early hours and manual labor.

Rossi said that it was easy to promise them breakfast for their work, but their willingness to show up meant even more.

“It speaks to their character, as far as I’m concerned,” Rossi said. “They make sacrifices for me, and I make sacrifices for them. They’re like my kids.”

Dawnthea Price: 540/374-5403

dprice@freelancestar.com

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