TIFTON, Ga. — Newton County resident Kira Buckner was among two Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College students selected as floral design assistants for First Lady Jill Biden’s recent Congressional Luncheon.
Buckner, a sophomore majoring in agricultural education at the college in Tifton, spent three days in Washington, D.C., in October preparing for the event.
The Newton High School graduate said there were around 1,600 people in attendance at the luncheon, including Mrs. Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris.
“I had a great experience in Washington D.C., and I feel like I learned a lot,” Buckner said. “I definitely feel way more confident in my design skills.”
Buckner and ABAC junior Maddie McDonald of Dublin took part in creating 170 centerpieces and two arches for photos at the event.
Frank Flanders, ABAC’s agricultural education program coordinator, nominated Buckner and McDonald for the team.
“Selection for the congressional design team is an honor and excellent professional development opportunity for these students,” Flanders said.
“These are the type of engaged activities that ABAC encourages for students. As design team members, Maddie and Kira worked alongside some of the top designers in the U.S.”
He had nominated McDonald for the luncheon in 2020 and she was notified by Dave Pruitt, CEO of the American Grown Cut Flower Organization, of her selection prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 event was canceled because of the pandemic.
McDonald said she was extremely excited to be a part of the event. The experience changed her outlook on the horticulture and floral design industry, she said.
“I learned that consumers spend almost $27 billion per year on floral products, and while the majority of consumers would prefer to buy locally grown flowers, only a small percentage sold in the United States are grown here,” McDonald said.
“As a future agricultural education teacher, I will try to advocate for everyone around me to look at where their grocery store floral bouquets are coming from and ask their florist for only American grown flowers.”