When you think of Keller high schools and competition, you probably think of football or basketball. In fact, just last year Keller High’s varsity basketball team went to the state championships in San Antonio.
Flying a little more under the radar but just as noteworthy is the Future Farmers of America program, which is centered at the Keller Center for Advanced Learning, a career and technology center for all four high schools.
“The students spend many hours preparing for their competitions and compete against other FFA members from across the state,” says Bodie Carroll, an agriculture and veterinary science teacher and FFA Advisor for Keller ISD. “This year two of our teams qualified for the state level of competition: the Nursery/Landscape career development event and the Agricultural Issues leadership development event. Out of the 1059 FFA Chapters in Texas, both teams placed in the top 20 at the state level.”
FFA students stay plenty busy, learning about agriculture and animal science management, going on field trips to such places as the Fort Worth Animal Shelter and the State Fair of Texas, and raising livestock animals (chickens, cattle, rabbits, lambs, goats, pigs) for exhibit at the annual Tarrant County Junior Livestock Show.
Bodie, a third-generation FFA member in Cleburne, is “from a very rural and active FFA program” and was “a bit worried and not sure what to expect moving to a very suburban program.”
Luckily, his worries were quickly assuaged as he was “pleasantly surprised with how much dedication and passion Keller students have towards FFA and agriculture,” particularly regarding the competitions and leadership opportunities.
Bodie, who says he “had some really awesome FFA advisors growing up who inspired me to come back and make a difference in the lives of high school students,” believes enrollment in the FFA is helpful for young people in a number of ways, especially in this day and age when teens spend so much time staring at screens.
“It helps them learn more about animals, caring for them, and having the responsibility and work ethic to raise them properly,” he says. “It gives them a newfound respect for farmers and ranchers and the obstacles they must overcome when producing livestock animals. It helps them understand where their food comes from and what goes into producing it. And it gives them some basic, hands-on veterinary knowledge.”
One student benefiting from the program is Ali Skordinski, a senior at Central High School and the Keller FFA president. She calls herself a “major animal person” who loves four-legged creatures more than she loves most people.
Skordinski’s involvement with the FFA has expanded her group of non-furry friends as well.
“Through FFA I have met people I never would have known, and they have become some of my closest friends,” she says. “Mostly students from other schools, but one of my friends who is also on the officer team, Kole Bonner, and I met though FFA. We were in a class together the previous year but didn’t realize it until we became officers together. It took FFA to help me meet someone who I sat in a classroom with for a year!”
Skordinski grew up with animals but didn’t get into agriculture until recently.
“Like most people, I never really gave it much thought,” she says. “Since joining FFA, I have a whole new appreciation for how our lives are 100-percent dependent on the agricultural field, yet most people know very little about it.”
Skordinski says she “absolutely loves” the FFA program and “can’t wait to see” how it progresses in the Keller area over the next few years.
“I know that it is going to grow and become an integral part of the community,” she says.
Like Skordinski, Peyton Halfmann, a junior at Keller High School and the Keller FFA vice president, grew up around animals.
“My family raises Hereford cattle, and I’ve ridden horses my entire life,” she says. “Growing up, I dreamed of wearing a blue corduroy jacket but never thought that it would be a reality for me. I used to leave stock shows a crying mess when I was younger because I wanted to show a pig so badly.”
Thanks to her advisors, KCAL and Keller ISD, Halfmann’s childhood fantasy has come true.
“I now get to put my very own jacket on and go work with my show pig every day,” she says. “My dreams have become a reality through FFA, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Dreams have come true for Bodie Carroll as well, despite the fact that the Keller chapter of the FFA is a relative newbie.
“Even though this is only our second year as a chapter, I would rank us up near the top with other chapters that have been established for decades,” he says. “This could never have been accomplished without the support and dedication of everyone in Keller ISD, but more importantly without the hard work and commitment of all of our students. They have worked extremely hard to make our chapter a success, and I think they are seeing their efforts rewarded.”