SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif — Before Dawn Mones graduated from Kapaa High School in 2013, she was an exchange student stung by the travel bug.
With a new found appreciation for stepping out of her comfort zone, Mones enrolled at California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly.
Four years later, the daughter of George and Kay Mones is one of 20 Cal Poly students recognized for winning the American Institute of Floral Designers’ Floral Design Challenge at the organization’s 2016 symposium in Anaheim, Calif.
“We practiced a lot in the months leading up to the competition,” Mones said. “There was a lot of pressure, but it was fun to get work. It was exhilarating.”
The competition featured 11 other colleges around the nation and was a defining moment for Mones, who has a passion for horticulture.
Majoring in agricultural and environmental plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Mones and her teammates were ready for the challenge, no matter what was being thrown at them.
“It’s like Iron Chef where they give you a mystery box of ingredients. They give you a situation where you have to create a floral design for a certain event and they give you a box full of floral materials and stuff,” she said. “You have about five hours to create something.”
Graduating this June, Mones still has a lot of school work to do before she can throw her graduation cap in the air, but she already knows what she wants to do post-college.
“I want to be a curator at a botanical garden. I have a passion for horticulture, floral design and botanical research,” Mones said. “I believe plants can change the world and hope to find a career where I can share that with others.”
Going away for college was a difficult decision, but Mones knew real world experience was something she would find on the mainland.
“It’s pretty different but I’m glad I have the opportunity to experience mainland culture. As different as it is, it made me appreciate Kauai all the more,” she said.
Mones said she has experience working in botanical gardens and if somewhere on Kauai was looking for someone to become a curator, she’ll listen.
“If there’s an opening, I’d love to come back,” she said.