At 19, Tongue Point Job Corps Center landscaping student John Cader knows his turf.

He's spent the last 16 months learning about irrigation, fertilization and the basic principles and calculations for turf-grass maintenance. And he's got the certificate to prove it.

Cader has made history as the first student in Job Corps history to earn the Certified Landscape Technician (CLT) certificate from the national organization Professional Landcare Network, said Tita Montero, business and community liaison at Tongue Point.

Cader's teacher, Kris Saulsbury, said Cader's hard work will pay off when it's time for him to head out into the job market in a few months. The classification lets an employer know that a candidate will be ready to work on day one.

"For students, it's a huge tool in their belt. It shows that they've proven their worth to the industry already," said Saulsbury, a former landscape contractor.

The test has written and hands-on components, and allows each individual to demonstrate their competence in an area of expertise. Cader has already earned his turf maintenance Certified Landscape Technician credential and will try for a second credential in irrigation later this month.

The standards are rigorous and even many industry professionals haven't been successful at earning these credentials, Saulsbury said.

"It's an extensive testing process and you have to prove to a number of people that you know what you're doing. I've had others try, and I didn't pass on my first try either," he said. Saulsbury holds Certified Landscape Technician credentials in irrigation and softscape installation.

But for Cader, the effort and even the studying came easily once he arrived at Tongue Point. But that wasn't always the case for him during high school in Brookings.

"I never studied before I came here," Cader said. "But I've always wanted to do this, I just didn't know how."

Saulsbury praised Cader's aptitude and determination, and has no doubt Cader will earn that second certificate and later take the landscaping contractor's exam.

"Not everyone has the drive that John has, but he'll be able to go out into the industry and do anything he wants to do without looking over his shoulder," he said. He's got his eye on being the youngest person in Oregon with a contractor's license, so he can work for himself right out of the gate.

Even though small business operation is not technically a part of the landscaping curriculum at Tongue Point, Saulsbury said he's shared as much as he can about running a small business with his students.

Montero said that application of real world expertise to teaching is what JobCorps and Tongue Point is all about.

"It's not what we do officially, but it is what any of our instructors do," Montero said.

In the meantime, Cader is still riding the high of his achievement, knowing his family is especially thrilled.

Cader called his father the moment he found out he'd passed the exam, and a beaming smile filled his face as he described his dad's response.

"He was proud, real proud," Cader said.