Students, parents look toward horizon for 4-H projects

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Dec. 15, 2012 at 6:15 a.m.
Updated Dec. 16, 2012 at 6:16 a.m.

With his arms folded across his burgundy polo shirt, Jason Garza, 13, stood with an emotional maturity beyond his years.

Behind a thin wire cage, Cookie's wet, black snout searched for the Cade Middle School student's hand.

Jason said he named the black and white pig after his favorite dessert.

"She's the nicest pig I've ever had," Jason said. "This one just likes playing around."

When Jason first joined the Victoria School District's Future Farmers of America chapter five years ago, he said letting go of his first pig was hard.

Her name was Lulu, and like other animals that go through the FFA program, she was sold to market.

"My first year, I broke down in tears," said the 13-year-old. "She was close to everybody, all my cousins."

Students from the elementary to high school level were at Agriculture Science Lab and Farm Center on Monday afternoon cleaning up after and feeding their animals.

Parents from the booster club arrived with their young children, and conspired with each other about the projects to come.

A new wash rack, a new speaker space with bleachers and barbecue area for future fundraising events are just a few things on their wish list.

While the program is part of the Victoria school district, all of the expenses for the animals comes out of each student's pocket - with costs averaging at least $1,000 per animal a year.

Current corporate sponsors include: DuPont, Speedy Stop, Victoria Auto Group, Goyen Electric and East and West FFA booster clubs.

On the far right side of the farm, a muddy, weed-ridden lot was encircled by a freshly-plotted wooden frame.

Booster club president David Garza, Jason's father, explained a pending cement pouring and facelift the group hopes to give the non-functioning animal washing station.

"The pipes got rusted and chipped," David Garza said. "They were sharp like a razor blade."

Since last year, the washing station has been of little-to-no use to the animal-rearing students.

"The new superintendent said he would match whatever we raise from sponsors this year," David Garza said. "We really appreciate his support and donation."

Victoria East High School junior Alyse Dominguez said she can't wait for the wash rack to be refurbished.

"My pig has gotten really sunburned," said the 17-year-old. "I haven't been able to brush off her scabs."

FFA members and siblings Allison and Anthony Garza, of no relation to Jason and David, said the hardest part of their animal cleaning ritual is keeping their goats still.

With the refurbished wash rack, David Garza said the club hopes to include individual stations to stabilize the animals.

"This is going to be great for the kids," said FFA mother Tammy Garza. "Especially for those that don't have the land to keep them on."

The convenience and access of a well-kept, and lighted wash rack would provide better access for the students when preparing for shows and competitions.

The search for additional sponsors has been ongoing, said the father.

So far, the club has been able to raise about $4,000 in donations.

"We're not doing this for us or the school district," the father said. "This is about the kids."



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