Channelview FFA show & parade April 6

By David Taylor
Managing Editor

Wesley Hutchins shoulders a huge responsibility. For 17 years, he’s taught in the Channelview FFA program at his alma mater, and the 1987 graduate couldn’t be happier. Now, as leader of the program, the legacy of a 61-year-old institution will shine bright on Saturday when the annual FFA parade kicks off at 10 a.m. and traverses down Woodforest, north on Sheldon and into the administration parking lot. It will be the start of a week celebrating the successes of FFA students who have worked months on projects to show beginning next Tuesday.

Keeping students of this generation involved in Future Farmers of America despite so many distractions today can be a challenge, but Hutchins has found the key.

“We’re blessed with a lot of good children,” he said.

Many of those students are generational families that have first, second, and third generation students who have come through the program.

“I’m one of those,” he confessed. “I was second generation and my children the third generation that came through the program.”

Many also have extended family in aunts, uncles, and grandparents who were also involved.

“For many of those kinds of students it was more like a natural progression in life, and most of them started in third grade in the junior program,” he explained.

One of those students is his current FFA president Cori McCloskey. She is in her 10th year in the program and has shown an animal every year she’s been in the program.

“She’s a prime example of how we how we do that starting them young,” Hutchins said.

Her father Chris was involved in the FFA program in LaPorte.

The recruiting doesn’t stop there. Hutchins says they use the annual livestock show as a selling point. It remains the largest event on the high school campus in the spring every year and very well attended.

If they don’t reach them in the lower schools, he uses his older students as examples of what the program can do for them and the many benefits.

Hutchins teaches alongside colleagues Brooke McCauley and Jacob Smith.

“If they [kids] give us a chance, we show them how they get to raise a baby animal through it’s lifecycle for market prep including keeping it healthy, clean, nutrition, animal husbandry, showing and presenting that animal, and then hopefully it places well enough for sale and make money off of it,” he said.

The process teaches the student responsibility and leadership skills.

“It’s a family affair. Those young ones can’t drive, so if they have a project here at the barn, someone is bringing them here at least twice a day for feeding,” he explained.

Since school begins at 7:05 a.m. at the high school, the student has to be there much earlier to take care of their animal and feed them for the day. Then, in the afternoon, they return for their evening feeding and grooming including exercise for the animal.

“They don’t know Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or other holidays. There’s no time off when you have animals,” he said. “They have to be fed and kept healthy every single day.”

Hutchins also said they have to remind the students that they are not pets, but projects that will go to market sooner or later. The day of the sale can be emotional.

“They have to learn to let go of something that they’ve taken care of. The sooner they learn and understand that it’s the life cycle that we live in, the better it is for them. We’re not trying to make them immune, and we don’t encourage them not to get upset, or to be sad, but they have to understand that there’s a time and a place for everything on this planet,” the FFA teacher said.

While some lessons are hard, others come naturally for others.

Even as pockets of farmland in Channelview disappear with the growing population, Hutchinson said they work to keep the program viable with options.

“We do judging contests, leadership contests, and we teach leadership and personal skills. Hopefully it’s just a well-rounded program for them,” he said.

It has been a source of joy for Hutchins.

“I love it! I was a member of the program, went off to college at Sam Houston to be a teacher, and to come home and teach where I grew up is just special,” he said. “It’s my honor and pleasure to give back to it.”

To support Hutchins and his FFA students, visit their Facebook page at cvisd.org/o/chs/page/ffa.

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