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NORMANGEE’S JADE WILLIAMS FOUND COMMON GROUND IN AGRICULTURE What started as a mistake in Normangee High School senior Jade Williams’ schedule her freshman year has led to a future career as an advocate for agriculture. Williams was new to Normangee that year, moving from Dallas with her mom and brother. Intending to be in a nursing class, she was instead put into an intro to ag class by mistake. As a home school student before enrolling at Normangee High School and coming from a large city, Williams said she had no knowledge of agriculture or how important the industry was to her and her life. “I’m so grateful because [FFA] gave me a common ground with the people that I was involved with on a daily basis that I didn’t have a common ground with, and it gave me an appreciation for their lifestyle,” she said. “… It taught me those public relations skills, and it gave me an opportunity to go on these trips and meet these people and understand what agriculture really means to my friends at school that I didn’t relate with and had to gain an understanding with.” During that first class, she learned the average farmer feeds about 113 people — up from about 15 in the 1980s — and that the agriculture industry is more than just farming and ranching, but affects all areas of people’s lives. “When I saw how deeply it related or resonated with me, I just knew it was something I wanted to be a part of on this bigger scale of what it does in public speaking, in the political realm, in the science classroom and in just regular farming,” she said. Williams said her ag teacher, Renita Schroeder, guided her through FFA. Since joining Normangee FFA, Williams has participated in livestock judging, public speaking, public relations, creed speaking and photography and has held leadership positions in the chapter. She also has shown broilers and goats. She serves as vice president of her FFA chapter, and is serving as secretary for FFA Area IX. On Monday, she was named the 2021 Normangee Junior Livestock Show fair queen. Schroeder said the senior has gone from wearing cat ears and funky glasses to belt SNOOK’S JASON BARKER HELPED BUILD AG MECHANICS PROGRAM buckles — including a broiler showmanship buckle — and a fair queen’s crown. She said Williams has not given up who she was when she first arrived in Normangee, but has become a more diverse version of that person, saying she still might show up one day with cat ears on her head. “I think she’s really a great role model for other students about how there’s so much diversity in our organization; there’s so many directions you can go,” Schroeder said. “I mean, she’s still not going to be the person that gets out and farms the land. … That’s not her, but at the same time, I think it has really helped us to say, you know, you don’t have to be a traditional ag kid. You don’t have to have been involved in 4-H since you were in the peewee division of showing cahle. You can come in, and you can Snook Secondary School senior Jason Barker find a spot.” grew up around agriculture, but he was never Farmers and ranchers do not get to walk interested in FFA or raising animals. away or clock out, and they continue working Then ag teacher Dustin Adams joined the through pandemics or any weather conditions, school and introduced an ag mechanics program Williams said, adding what happens in the ag during Barker’s sophomore year. industry affects everyone in all areas of the When Adams first asked if anyone was country. interested, no one “I just think it’s so volunteered. So, Barker important that we raised his hand. understand that it’s “Ever since then, more than a job to me and him basically them; it’s a lifestyle,” started the whole ag she said. “And it’s their mechanics program at lifestyle that supports our school,” Barker said. our lifestyle, whether Adams said he does not it’s those cool clothes think the program would you want to wear, Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of stories be what it is without that nice fancy food highlighting high school students from Bryan, Barker volunteering to you want to take College Station and Caldwell who are active in participate. a picture of and 4-H or FFA. The series, which is sponsored by Over the past three post on Instagram. years, Barker has made Capital Farm Credit, will culminate with one of the That’s all affected by a tool shed, a table featured students receiving a $3,000 scholarship. agriculture. That’s with a retractable bar honestly what makes and cooler space, a few the world go round.” trailers, a landscape Ajer graduating cleaner and a hydraulic log spliher. His projects from Normangee High School, Williams plans to have earned him ag mechanics grand champion ahend Texas A&M to study ag communications honors three times, reserve champion twice and and then hopes to intern with the Texas and showmanship once at the Burleson County Fair. Southwestern Cahle Raisers Association. The log spliher is one of his favorite projects, The daughter of a single mom, Williams said Barker said, because he completed it in nine she has worked full-time at Stanley Feed in days and it was his introduction to welding. Normangee throughout high school but hopes Barker said he plans to ahend Texas State to receive scholarships to help fund her college Technical College in Waco ajer graduation to education. With scholarships, she said, she will earn biomedical technology and multi-process not have to worry about taking a semester off to welding degrees so that he has options for his pay for future semesters or opportunities. career path. Scholarships will help him pursue Schroeder said she is proud to see Williams those educational goals and take some burden going ajer scholarship opportunities, saying off his parents, who are helping care for his it has been fun watching the senior go from a younger brother’s new baby and his older naïve freshman to an advocate. She credits brother’s infant. Williams’ natural curiosity and leadership for Using the knowledge and skills he has learned that growth. through ag mechanics, Barker said, he and “She’s a great kid, a great young woman,” some friends have started their own company Schroeder said. “I just look for her to be very doing various projects throughout the Snook successful in whatever she chooses to do, community with a focus on welding. wherever she goes and whatever she does “Not only have I learned a lot about the art because she does really set herself to a high of welding, but I’ve learned that hard work standard.” eventually pays off, and I’ve learned what being a leader truly means, especially in the FFA,” Barker said. Adams said he sometimes catches Barker giving similar advice he has given students about their projects. “For example, when we’re working on these projects, and we’re welding, there’s another kid that says, ‘Oh, nobody will ever see that, so I won’t go back and fix that weld’ or whatever,” Adams said. “I’ve heard Jason say, ‘Well, it doesn’t maher what everybody else is going to see. It mahers that you know it’s there, and it mahers that you know it’s right and done the way it should be done.’ He’s stepped up in that way and been a leader.” Adams said he remembered when Barker, who had worked hard on his project, did not do as well as he hoped at one show. Another student, who also had worked hard, was disappointed in the result of his project. “Instead of being upset together or being upset at each other, Jason was there, you know, ‘Hey, it’s it was an awesome project. You put your heart and soul into this, and you should be proud of it. There’s no reason to be down about it,’ ” Adams said. “He was really there for the kid and picked him up.” That support is something Barker tries to provide to younger students through the district’s Buddy Program, in which high school students become mentors for elementary and middle school students who are considered atrisk or who have discipline or behavior problems. Twice a week for 45 minutes, he will hang out with his buddy and relax and talk about the importance of having a good ahitude and good behavior. Before joining the Buddy Program, he said, he never reached out beyond his friend circle. “I always wanted to reach out and help my younger generation, but going through there, it actually helped me reach out to them and realize there’s so much more to life than just sticking to myself,” he said. “I need to try to make the world a beher place a lihle bit at a time.” It was a similar situation in FFA, he said. Now, as a leader in the program, he is able to reach out to younger students and teach them about hard work and that it does pay off. “It helped me grow as a person,” Barker said. “I guess you could say it’s still helping me grow to this day.” Through the program, he said, he has also learned the importance of the ag industry in the country, beyond just food production. “If you think about it, a lot of the medicines we use today and a lot of the technologies and stuff and everything that we have today in our world, it wouldn’t be possible without agriculture,” he said. Adams said he is proud of the work Barker has achieved. “He’s an awesome kid,” he said. “He’s come a long way from when I met him.”

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