First youth leadership seminar focuses on making good choices

Oct. 4, 2011 at 5:04 a.m.

In front of more than 250 FFA, 4-H and agriculture students, the executive director of Texas FFA, Aaron Alejandro, asked who was proud of Texas agriculture.

"Yeehaw," a voice from the crowd yelled.

The response was right on target with the mission of the Victoria County Farm Bureau, which hosted the first of what it hopes to be an annual Youth Leadership Development Day at the Victoria Fine Arts Center.

"We believe in agriculture," said Janice Ohrt, the local Farm Bureau's board secretary and treasurer. "We feel like it's so very important for our young people to understand what a vital role they play in this."

Hence, the inspiration behind Tuesday's seminar titled, "Today's choices influence your future."

Students from all over the Crossroads - including Goliad, Bloomington, Nordheim and Moulton - turned out for the event, which also offered messages from the Texas Farm Bureau director of organization, Si Cook; and Curtis Childers, a former Texas and national FFA president, who nearly lost his life because of drugs.

Childers displayed photos of his tenure in the FFA, shaking Bill Clinton's hand and at the opening of the George Bush Presidential Library, on stage with George Bush, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

These images contrasted with those taken after June 24, 2008, which showed Childers in a coma, being wheeled outside a hospital for some sun. There were pictures of Childers in a wheelchair, bandages covering where a breathing tube had been.

Despite his success as a student, and eventually scoring a job in California making six figures, Childers said he followed a path to addiction that eventually led him to the "enemy drug" and "the demon" - crack cocaine.

"For me, first it was beer and cigarettes, then I would try marijuana," Childers told the crowd. "Small things can lead to big things."

On June 24, Childers said he was high on crack in a third-story hotel room when a maid walked in the room. The drugs had made him paranoid, he said, and he thought the hotel maid was going to kill him.

He jumped out the window and landed on the left side of his head on asphalt.

"Why am I alive? Why is it that I have the ability to walk in here and speak? I believe it's because God is real," he said.

Childers used his recovery experience - of relearning how to eat, who his family was, how to walk - as a guideline the students could use to overcome challenges - take things step-by-step, know that you're awesome and be willing to receive help from others.

The students appeared to have listened to the talk.

"I liked how they spoke about God. A lot of people try to take that out." said Megan Klesel, a 14-year-old FFA officer from Hallettsville. "I learned not to say 'never.'"

She was with two other FFA officers, Paiden Pruett, 14, and Kyler Trench, 15, who said they enjoyed their afternoon of lectures.

They hoped the leadership seminar would be back next year and that even more students could attend.

"Some people need to hear that," Paiden said.



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