Floral Design Program in Full Bloom at Rudder & Bryan High

Heading into the thick of spring, Rudder and Bryan High students are developing their creativity and career prospects through floral design.

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FINAL FITTING – A floral design student makes last minute changes to her floral arrangement.

Part of FFA, floral design classes teach students skills they can use in a florist shop, a hobby business and many other industries.

Rebecca Casey Ortiz, Rudder junior, is taking floral design classes for the first time this year and was recently offered a job with an event planning business arranging flowers for smaller events and dinners.

“The things I’m learning in floral design, I’m able to apply in my job,” Ortiz said.

Evolving Program

GREEN THUMB – Floral design students learn about all aspects of the plants they arrange.

Michelle Knox, Ortiz’s floral design teacher at Rudder, said she is “out-shined” all the time by her students, which is something she loves. She said she is constantly reminded how students are growing in their skills. Knox started teaching floral design at Rudder in 2014, but she said the program has really “taken off” the last two years.

“On days that projects are finished you see kids throughout the hallway with their arrangements and it’s like walking advertisements to take floral design,” Knox said. “For those who can’t take floral design, we do seasonal Pinterest nights where anyone can come and make the project of the month with all supplies provided and help offered for a small fee.”

Next school year, advanced floral design classes will be offered at Rudder and Bryan High, bringing increased certification and competition opportunities and a possible floral club at Rudder. Barbara Volk-Tunnell, Bryan High floral design teacher, said students could get a high school floral certification or an art certification through floral design.

“This gives them the opportunity to get a foot in the door to get a job over someone that doesn’t have a certification,” Volk-Tunnell said. “They might get paid more or be able to be a little more hands-on. Even if they’re not going to go into as a career, it looks good on their resume.”

Seizing Opportunity

FOCUSED PRECISION – A floral design student trims a plant to get the right fit for her arrangement.

Her students have traveled all over the state for competitions related to horticulture and floral arrangements. Kamryn, Frenzel, one of Volk-Tunnel’s sophomore students, recently earned second place in the “Dining with a Texas Flair” competition at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and walked away with $750 to use as she sees fit.

“I didn’t know that I would be good at floral design,” Frenzel said. “I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t have any experience. I just learned a lot in this class and it’s very helpful.”

Ola Thornhill, Bryan High sophomore, signed up for floral design because she wanted to learn something new. She quickly learned that the class involved more than she expected.

“You have to know a lot personally about plants,” Thornhill said. “You have to learn about the different types of arrangements. It’s not just putting plants together. You have to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”

Children First. Always.

Bryan International Baccalaureate Student Creates & Leads After-School Music Program

Teaching Students
CIRCLE OF MUSIC – Bach leader & organizer Laura Gonzalez, Bryan High junior, leads her students through a song.

Playing the violin is her passion. Teaching it gives her joy. Seeing a kid smile when they learn a new song, get something right or learn how to hold a bow puts a smile on her face.

She’s played music most of her life, but Laura Gonzalez, Bryan High junior, never realized its true impact until November when she formed the Bach String Academy for Bryan ISD elementary students. The student-led program, which offers violin lessons every Monday to elementary school students all over Bryan, blossomed out of an idea Gonzalez had for an International Baccalaureate, IB, service project.

Creativity, activity, service, or CAS, are core requirements of the IB program Gonzales is enrolled in at Bryan High. Students have the option to choose how they will fulfill the requirements.

Gonzalez took part in a free employee-led after-school string program when she was in elementary school, discovering its value. After a conversation about her idea with John Lemons, Bryan High orchestra director, Gonzalez gained confidence in her ability to organize a similar program. She approached a few of her fellow Bryan High orchestra students about helping her lead the program. Eventually, seven other violin students and a cello student joined her as volunteers.

Students Teaching Students

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STUDENT TEACHER – A Bryan High orchestra student teaches the fundamentals of the violin.

At the beginning of the school year, Gonzalez sent flyers home to elementary parents advertising free weekly string lessons. They didn’t know what to expect. Gonzalez said she expected to hear from a few parents who might be interested. However, when she arrived at the academy’s first information meeting on Oct. 24 a room full of eager parents and students greeted her.

“At the beginning, we were just thinking maybe 15 kids, but overall we have around 33 kids,” Gonzalez said.

To accommodate all of the students, Bach organizers divided the groups between “older and younger” students and made use of additional orchestra rooms.

Interest spread quickly, and it didn’t take long for the elementary students to get excited about the program. When talking about the excitement that came with the first time she played a song Lydia Frei, Bonham third-grade student, said, “It made me feel pretty accomplished in my life. It was one of the biggest things I’ve ever done.”

Affordable Lessons

Students like Frei can get lessons from Bach String Academy for free. All they have to do is bring an instrument, which can be rented at local stores for a reasonable price.

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THE JOY OF MUSIC – A Bach String Academy student loves her violin.

Frei’s mother Ashley said she was a little hesitant about her daughter getting music lessons because she didn’t want to commit to the money and extra time required without knowing if her daughter really interested. She’s since found out through the academy that her daughter is genuinely interested in playing the violin and she’s thankful for the opportunity.

“Bach was able to give our family an opportunity to have music lessons and definitely not break the bank,” Ashley said.

She’s thankful that the student organizers spend their free time to “give back.” Many of the organizers like Tomasita Ponce, Bryan High junior, are just as thankful to the elementary students for what they provide in return.

“It makes me really happy when they’re excited,” Ponce said. “I get excited for them too. It’s like oh my gosh we learned a new song.”

When her elementary students struggle, Ponce said she tries to understand what they’re struggling with and talk to them in a way they helped her understand when she was their age.

Improving Together

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ATTENTIVE PLAYING – A Bach String student focuses intently on practicing her cello.

Samantha Cruz, Bryan High junior, said the students developed a lot since the time they joined the academy. She said the students had to be taught the fundamentals, such as how to hold an instrument, know the parts of an instrument and read music.

“It’s nice seeing everything come together,” Cruz said. “Most of the time the kids comprehend with us, and we’re just going with the flow, so it’s nice.”

As everything comes together with the Bach program, the student organizers’ orchestra director John Lemons said the Bryan High orchestra is benefiting as well.

“Anytime that you explain your art or whatever your passion is, it helps,” Lemons said. “It reminds you of your own fundamentals, and you’ve got to keep on top of what you’re teaching.”

Lemons said that he is proud of Gonzalez and all the other students that are helping her. Both of them plan to keep the student-led program going for many years to come.

“I plan to continue doing this,” Gonzalez said. “After I graduate, I want kids from the orchestra to stand up and take the lead in the string academy and continue on.”

Children First. Always.

Additional Information:

If you are interested in signing your child up for the Bach String Academy next year, there will be a parent information meeting in the fall where you can register your child. The time, date and location of the information meeting are not scheduled yet.

For More Information about the Bach String Academy: