Scholarship will aid Penn State New Kensington student in reaching goals

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Daniel Stawowczyk, a landscape contracting major at Penn State New Kensington, has received a scholarship from Pucketos Garden Club that will help support his studies and dream of one day creating his own landscaping company.

"I'm very thankful to have received this scholarship," said Stawowczyk, whose major falls under Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. "It will definitely help me financially, but more importantly, receiving a scholarship gives me motivation to do my best throughout my college career. It shows that someone believes in me, and that drives me to put forth my hardest effort academically and mentally."

Pucketos Garden Club of New Kensington, a member of District VII of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, is a nonprofit organization that supports conservation of natural resources and works with other local clubs on environmental and legislative issues. The Pucketos Garden Club Scholarship provides $1,000 for selected college students majoring in ecology, horticulture, landscape design, conservation, botany, forestry, or agricultural or earth sciences. 

Stawowczyk grew up in Plum, Pennsylvania, and attended Plum Borough School District until finishing his high school education at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. He spent much of his years growing up outdoors, playing football and basketball, riding bikes and skateboarding. Eventually, his love for the outdoors led him to hiking and planting his own garden every year.

"I simply enjoy the outdoor atmosphere," he said. "Every year I plant my garden and feel at complete tranquility just by being outside."

At 16, Stawowczyk got his first job at a greenhouse. In the beginning, he had no idea that simply working at a greenhouse would guide him toward a path for his future, but he quickly became fascinated with the plants that he cared for at his job. Those experiences led him to look into the field of landscape contracting.

"Landscape contracting can lead students in many different directions, including my interest in the design aspect of the field," he explained. "Career opportunities are endless. With plant and landscape knowledge, there are options for design jobs, plant specialist jobs, and manager or foreman jobs, and the degree also provides you with knowledge to run your own company."

Penn State was the perfect place to pursue a career in landscape contracting, he said.

Stawowczyk was able to start his academic journey at the New Kensington campus, which is close to his hometown, and he cites the close-knit campus community and affordability as two of the many advantages of being at one of Penn State's Commonwealth Campuses.

"I've developed some great relationships with professors, which really allowed me to understand the information to the fullest extent," he said. "I also appreciate the amount of money that I have been able to save by starting at a branch campus."

Deborah Sillman, assistant professor of biology and instructional development specialist at Penn State New Kensington, is Stawowczyk's academic adviser and his lab instructor in Biology 110. She helped him acclimate to college life and was among those who nominated him for the garden club scholarship.

"Danny is one of the nicest and most enthusiastic students I have ever interacted with," Sillman said. "He treats everyone on campus with respect and kindness — behaviors our world could use a little bit more of right now."

He is resilient in the face of academic challenges and keeps his career and personal goals in mind as he works toward his Penn State degree, she added. "I have no doubt that Danny will be successful in his academics as he moves to University Park — and in his landscape contracting career after Penn State."

While Stawowczyk loves New Kensington, he is eager to relocate to University Park in the fall semester and take advantage of many opportunities there, such as joining the Horticulture Club, attending career fairs and finding internship opportunities. He believes Penn State New Kensington has prepared him well for the next step.

"All of my classes (at University Park) will be major-related, and I'm so excited to extend my agricultural knowledge," he said. "I cannot wait to expand my connections, build up solid experience and prepare myself to live out my dream using the knowledge and experience that I am gaining at Penn State."

After graduation, he plans to gain practical experience by working in the field, with the goal of one day creating a contracting company with his best friend.

"I think it would be awesome to create a successful company with one of my best friends, seeing he has the hands-on construction experience, and I would be the designer for the company," said Stawowczyk. "I have many career ideas, but we will see where I end up after this awesome journey at Penn State."

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Last Updated April 02, 2018