While Americans are making florists work overtime for Valentine's Day, students in the Vocational Agriculture program at Payson High School were adding baby's breath to rose bud vases, making certain the peppermint carnations had water and ensuring that orders for flowers matched the arrangements.
It is crunch time and students from each class worked to fill the flower freezer with completed Valentine's Day orders.
More than 100 roses have been sold, arranged and delivered this week by the high school students of Future Farmers of America Chapter 67.
At first glance, one might think high school students selling roses and carnations to other high school students is just a simple fund-raiser. The students and their teachers disagree.
"Guys want to send them to that special someone to keep them out of the doghouse for Valentine's Day." Lanie James said, as she continued to arrange the heady scented blossoms. "One guy, he's sending one to his girlfriend each hour of the day."
Audrey Messig said that any boy who would send a flower an hour to his sweetheart was one romantic guy.
"The flower sale is based on a competency list that the children learn in the horticulture area. At face value, it is a fund-raiser. But underneath, it combines merchandising competencies along with floral arranging," said Wendell Stevens, head of the vocational-agriculture program.
Even though the sale is announced in the school bulletins, the students have to learn about sales, meeting people and getting in front of them.
"We arm the kids with order blanks to go and sell flowers." Stevens said.
The flowers were ordered from a wholesaler and delivered last Thursday morning. By Friday, there were only a couple dozen unsold blossoms.
"It's very very fun," Andrew Sproul said. "Did I send any? No. I sold some. Two in the past hour."
All the competencies that have gone into this Valentine's Day fund-raiser are a part of the Career Technical Education program.
Programs like Payson High School's vocational ag or auto shop programs could well be in jeopardy.
President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2006 budget eliminates funding for the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act.
Keeping in mind that states match a portion of federal career and technical education funds, data found on the Association for Career and Technical Education's website, www.acteonline.org, estimates that in Arizona this loss could be more than $26 million.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that it will give the state of Arizona $24,328,883 in Vocational Education State Grants, up 20.6 percent from the actual amount of $20,178,519 in 2001.
According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the Bush Administration is requesting no funding for current Vocational Education programs because under the Administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool, "Vocational Education State Grants was rated ineffective because it has produced little or no evidence of improved outcomes for students despite decades of Federal investment."
ACTE public policy staff claims that the data used by the National Assessment of Vocational Education board is outdated as well as unsubstantiated. According to ACTE, new research shows that career and technical education (CTE) students experience improved employment outcomes and academic success.
While vocational education could be funded under Bush's High School Intervention Initiative, ACTE believes that the states will have far fewer resources than they presently have under Perkins.
For now, the students will continue with their work in and out of the classroom.
"Contests, like the regional floral arranging one held at the FFA mid-winter conference, are an extension of the classroom," said Paty Henderson, a vocational coordinator working under a Federal grant.
"Kids graduate with a viable skill that they can go out and make money at. We (the vocational agriculture department) do food science and technology, we do livestock judging, horse judging, we do job interviews."