Students honored with Dr. Billy Harrell Award of Excellence


Madisonville FFA students were honored Sunday with the Dr. Billy Harrell Award of Excellence, the highest honor for agriculture mechanics at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

“This is a testament to Danny Foster, Kenny Barrett, Madisonville High School and Madisonville CISD and our great community that supports what these kids do,” said Keri Barrett, a math teacher and advisor at Madisonville High School and wife of Kenny Barrett, one of the school’s agriculture teachers.

The Harrell Award is named for Billy Harrell, a professor at Sam Houston State University who was instrumental in starting and building ag mechanics contests in Texas. Contests include such areas as fabrication and welding, tractor restoration and tractor tech. The Ag Mechanics Project Show presented annually at the HLSR is the largest in the nation.

“It’s a big deal,” said Kenny Barrett in a phone interview Monday. “In the state of Texas, this is basically the holy grail in ag mechanics.”

The students participating in ag mechanics at this year’s HLSR were Emily Sanford, Kendall Kilcrease, Edwardo Camerena, Taylor Barrett, Ethan Barrett, Sam Stevens, Mackenzie Foster, Austin Longoria, Bradley Longoria, Max Allen, Wyatt Zehnder, Alex Alvarado, Jake Padon, Ricardo Lopez and Juan Polanco.

This year’s competition included more than 500 projects, according to Kenny Barrett.

Kenny Barrett started the ag mechanics program in 2011 when he joined Madisonville High School. In his first year, he took five students and two projects to the San Antonio Livestock Show and HLSR with five students and two projects. In 2014, Danny Foster joined Madisonville High School and with his extensive knowledge in the Ag Mechanics Contest the program has continued to grow.

In 2018, 35 students traveled to Ft. Worth Stock Show, San Antonio Stock School and HLSR with 25 projects.

“Each year the students continue to shine, earn Blue Ribbons for their top-notch projects and often place in these contests,” Keri Barrett said. “Madisonville FFA is a name that is easily recognized in the Ag Mechanics circle.”

Each year, students from the program, graduate high school and continue their education in vocational training. Many have become top welders that excel in trade school and travel the world using the skills that were imprinted in their high school years.