Madisonville High School students get their fair share of reading, writing and arithmetic, but they also have opportunities to learn about the components in a gallon of milk, how to identify a plant species and how to test soil.
Those opportunities and more are available to students enrolled in Lynita Foster’s Future Farmers of America course.
One such MHS senior, Katherine “Jewel” Smith, recently was recognized as one of just 10 youth selected for the Texas FFA Association’s Ford Leadership Scholars program, an honor for which more than 220 students applied.
Smith, the daughter of MCISD Superintendent Keith Smith and technology instructor Laney Smith, said she’s thrilled to receive the honor, which comes with a $1,000 academic scholarship. Recipients are selected based on leadership, action, relationships, vision, character, awareness and continuous improvement.
Smith said her contribution to the Mustangs Against Hunger program met all six criteria. The charity raises funds and awareness for local elementary school and intermediate school students. The funds go toward backpacks filled with food to supplement the youth over the weekends.
“In our community, there is a need for that,” Smith said. “Without this program, there are kids that wouldn’t be able to eat until they go back to school on Monday.”
She’s raised about $400 thus far and is helping organize a 5K race in April that is estimated to generate an additional $2,000. The principle of giving back, Smith said, is inherent in FFA.
“As agriculturalists, we’re not just called to raise food for ourselves but to take care of our neighbors,” she said.
The 17-year-old has been in FFA all four years of high school and has already been accepted to Texas A&M University, where she plans to major in animal science.
“If I could call any one organization my home it would be FFA or athletics,” Smith said.
She is a volleyball standout and plays shortstop and pitcher for the Lady Mustang softball team. Although applications haven’t opened yet, Smith plans to run later this year for statewide FFA office.
“In order to achieve success, you have to work hard,” she said. “And that doesn’t always get you first place. It’s just about learning what you love.”
She credits Foster, the ag teacher, for bringing the scholarship opportunity to the forefront. Foster noted that the scholarship process is extensive, including an online application, exam, telephone interview and a day-long behavioral interview.
“I publicized the opportunity to all my students, but it’s up to the student to come and grab it,” Foster said. “It was a lot of hard work. Challenges don’t faze Jewel. She makes mature decisions. I’m excited to see what she will face in her future. She doesn’t let obstacles get in her way but plows right through them.”