Parker County Today October 2016 - Page 92

our future: AG KIDS Lillian Castleberry — Dynamic Youth Weatherford FFA brings leadership and a surprising passion for this senior STORY AND PHOTO BY EMMA MOORMAN OCTOBER 2016 PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY T exas Future Farmers of America posts on its website its mission, which is to be a dynamic youth organization that makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. They would be pleased to meet Weatherford High School Senior Lillian Castleberry. The FFA is a group that reaches across the United States and is composed of nearly 629,327 student members in seven through twelfth grades. In the United States alone it contains 7,757 chapters, in the U.S. and its territories. Of this 7,757, around 1,006 of them call Texas their home. In the growing town of Weatherford the local FFA contains dedicated members that strive to both strengthen themselves and their community through their local FFA program. Many of these members will grow up to run ranches or go into other agricultural-based trades. However, while the FFA prepares its members for this future it also teaches students many valuable skills they can use in their everyday lives. At the age of 17, Lillian serves as a chapter officer and competes on the veterinary science team. Teams like the one she competes on and many others travel the state of Texas competing with other FFA groups earning experience and awards as they travel the many miles every year. She began competing in FFA early. “I’ve been competing since freshman year. I was the only freshman on a team with seniors. It was terrifying but I got over it,” Castleberry said. As a chapter officer, she has additional responsibilities along with the competitions she goes to with her team. “You have your different levels, chapter and then your district officers and even national officers. So we run our meetings for our chapter, Weatherford FFA. We plan and organize them. Make sure everything gets done,” she continued. The competitions are fierce. She described what a veterinary science competition is like. “The vet tech team, there are a bunch of different parts to it. You have to identify breeds, parasites and organs. And tools, we do tools. There are 100 tools. All sorts of different animals from like livestock to exotics. From horses to snakes and dogs, cats and cows. Everything in between. We do a practicum which is a set of skills we have to learn. They choose from a bank like maybe we have to put a dog in lateral recumbency for radiology. We have to know how to do that. Or in a different position. Or shots or dosage calculations. That’s pretty fun. There’s a 300-question text bank so that’s fun. The test on the thing is usually 100 90 questions so that’s not too bad,” she said. Lillian has been successful at competitions thus far. She said, “I have won a bunch of veterinary science competition awards. My best was I got first in West Texas A&M out of a couple hundred people. That was pretty cool. And you can win through our chapter. You can win a Greenhand award for freshman and sophomores. I won the Greenhand award when I was a freshman. Then you get your chapter degree pen. Then you can get your Lone Star. It’s the highest degree that you can get in FFA. I’m going to get my Lone Star this year,” she said. She also spoke about the FFA jackets that the members wear during competition. It wasn’t her favorite article of clothing at first. “I got my FFA jacket the beginning of my sophomore year. At first when you get it you think it’s hideous, but now it’s like a part of me. I’m proud to wear it. I don’t even think it looks bad anymore. It’s stylish, but on a whole different level.” As a senior, the end of the year is going to be bittersweet for Lillian and her FFA friends. “For sure, at our banquet we have to retire our jackets and for a lot of Ag kids that’s kind of our graduation. Most of the seniors just bawl when they have to hang their jacket on the hook. I’m going to get emotional just thinking about it. I don’t want to hang up my jacket. Most of us cried last year and it wasn’t even our year,” she said. The biggest impact of FFA seems to be not only what the students learn, but what they learn about themselves. According to Lillian, “My favorite part is probably that it has taught me so much. Before FFA, I was that quiet kid in the back of the class. It taught me to come out of my shell. And now I can talk in front of all these people and it’s no big deal. I can say what needs to be said, I can run meetings and handle business. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before.”