For the past four years, Westchester Academy for International Studies student, Madeleine Carey, spent an enormous number of hours at the Spring Branch Agricultural Farm. In the early mornings before school and late afternoons after school from October through February she tended to goats and lambs in preparation for the annual SBISD FFA Livestock Show and Sale.
Her hard work and a special gift for training the animals to perform well in the arena earned her numerous awards at the shows:
2018: Grand Champion Lamb and Showmanship Award
2019: Grand Champion Goat and both Lamb and Goat Showmanship Awards
2020: Reserve Grand Champion Goat, Reserve Grand Champion Lamb and both Lamb and Goat Showmanship Awards
2021: Reserve Grand Champion Lamb
“She really has a gift to train these basically feral animals to become well-behaved show animals,” Guthrie Center Agricultural Science Teacher Katie Corona said. “This is called ‘gentling.’”
This determined student wrote down achievable goals each time she selected a new animal project in October, such as whether she would halter break the animal or perfect how the animal shows.
“This technique allows me to take small steps to gain trust with my project and set achievable goals that I can accomplish through the time of the project,” Carey said.
Livestock show judges look for the structure and amount of meat on the animal, as well as how it walks and poses with its trainer in the arena. The animals are sold at the end of the show, with 90 percent of the proceeds going directly to the students. The remainder supports educational opportunities for students, show expenses and scholarships.
Corona notes that the money the students receive from the sale helps them recoup the costs of raising the animals, and usually much more.
“Our goal [in the SBISD FFA program] is for every student to at least break even,” Corona said.
Carey has also held numerous leadership positions in the Spring Branch FFA Chapter including reporter, chaplain and sentinel. Last year she was the president of the Lake Houston District.
“Being an FFA member allows me to be a leader,” Carey said. “My main goal in high school was to show people that their uniqueness isn't something to hide but rather something they should embrace. FFA is the largest student-run organization, meaning we strive for inclusion and diversity among our members. This organization not only has changed my life but many others as well.”
Next year, Carey will attend Texas A&M to study biomedical science, with a new “achievable goal” of becoming a pharmacist.
She noted that the money earned in the past four years from the sales of her animal projects will pay for at least two years of college expenses! That’s not too baaaaaad.
Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications