Keeping family tradition alive


If you’re born a Cleere, you’re probably going to end up working with animals.

Such was the case for 11-year-old Kendel, a polite, articulate, slightly shy Madisonville Intermediate School student who recently exhibited the reserve champion junior heifer at livestock shows across the state.

Education is important to the Cleeres. Dad Jason is a Madisonville CISD school board member and professor of animal science at Texas A&M University. Mom Kristi is a marketing teacher at Madisonville High School. Brother Kanin is “the creative one,” who can’t stop smiling and making art projects – but it’s likely he’ll catch the 4H bug when he’s old enough.

Kendel says his work ethic is the reason he’s been successful with showing steers and heifers.

“It’s being in the barn a lot and practicing,” he said.

In fact, Kendel takes the “afternoon shift” to feed the family animals, which include a steer, two heifers and more than a dozen cattle.

Jason Cleere, raised in Anderson, and Kristi Cleere, who grew up in Bell County, both were involved in livestock projects as youth.

“It was so beneficial to us,” Jason said. “It builds work ethic, character and social skills.”

Kendel has competed in huge stadiums and seen his picture on the JumboTron. He’s been interviewed by Houston television stations and made friends from across the state.

“We’ve seen him grow and mature in his communication skills,” Jason said.

“It teaches them how to win and how to lose,” Kristi added.

There have been some setbacks for Kendel during his three years of participating in 4H. He’s seen animals pass away and he’s grown attached to some he’s had to sell. He also hasn’t always taken home the first-place belt buckle.

“It really triggers your emotions when you have to sell them,” Kendel said.

He earned $10,000 for a sale at San Antonio his first year, and the ultimate goal is that his projects will pay for college. The young man said his favorite subject is math, mostly because of teacher Stacy Williams.

He wants to go to Texas A&M, where his parents met, and study animal science. He ultimately aspires to become a veterinarian.

“When the Lord has a plan, it works out,” Jason Cleere said.

Jason emphasized that Kendel’s projects are family projects.

“We all do it together,” he said.

Kendel already started next year’s project, which he describes as “steers and heifers, as usual.”

His father asks him, “What have I always told you is the most important thing to be successful?”

Kendel doesn’t miss a beat.

“Hard work,” he says.