Benton also attracted students’ attention this past year by launching a doggie day care center at the school. An $800 grant from the Amicalola EMC in Jasper funded the project that invited teachers to bring their dogs onto the school grounds where students could tend to them. The program also got the spotlight when a five-student team took top honors in a dairy cattle judging competition last fall.
“That was the first time we did it, and even though there aren’t a lot of dairy cows in Cherokee County, the kids were interested, so we did it,” said Benton. “They had to judge the cattle and give reasons why they picked ones for first, second and third place. Even if they’d never been on a dairy farm, they learned a lot about analysis and public speaking.”
Many of Benton’s students do have equine experience.
“Horses are huge in Cherokee; we have one of the highest concentrations of horses between Kentucky and Florida,” she said. “We have a lot of kids who have horses, who ride, who do competitions.”
Rising junior Jeb Stewart’s FFA project is all about chickens. The 16-year-old lives on a small family farm that specializes in fruits and vegetables, with a few chickens and horses as well. But Stewart is raising his own birds.
“I’ve been part of FFA since the first day of high school, and I plan on taking it until I graduate,” said Stewart, who was part of the award-winning cattle-judging team. “Living on a farm kinda helps. I’ve always been engaged with agriculture, but my favorite is more the mechanics. I like getting to work on a motor or do wiring – something that’s more hands on, more one-on-one.”
Benton is on hand this summer to oversee that projects continue to go smoothly. “One of my requirements is to go out and supervise, so I work an extended school year. I’m visiting students to make sure they have animals and a workplace that are healthy and safe. I can also help them with details such as recording keeping and accounting.”
Not every FFA student has access to a farm, so Benton gives students some leeway in creating their projects.
“We have kids in subdivisions and apartments, so we have to get them to think outside the box,” said Benton. “So they may do some job shadowing, work for someone in an agricultural area or do a project at home. In the end, every student will have a supervised, agricultural experience.”
SEND US YOUR STORIES.
Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-744-3042.