Tarleton students learn through service to others
The smell of wood shavings and sounds of animals are two things only experienced at a livestock show. From early morning feedings to show day preparation, it takes dedication and desire to be successful. It also requires much patience and learning from June to January. The experience a show project brings is unique and a few more youth in Erath County were able to gain valuable lessons this past show season with the help of a small group of Tarleton State University students.
These Tarleton students joined forces with the Stephenville Foster's Home for Children to provide foster home youth with the opportunity to raise and show animals. The program is known as Foster's Home Ag Support Team (FHAST).
Foster's Home addresses the needs of troubled children and families by providing them with residential group care, foster family care and adoptions.
The program began six years ago with three girls and three goats and proved to be a success. The spirits of these young girls soared as they felt the pride involved with being responsible and dedicated.
This past year there was a desire to expand the program and allow the Foster's Home Children to have the opportunity to interact with college students. The thought was that the home's children could have a mentor who would not only help them with their show animals, but also develop a bond with a young adult who greatly needed a positive role mode in their lives.
The college mentors formed a team that supported the home's children with their show animals, teaching showmanship, caring for the animals and became role models.
Through the donation of time, services and products from many individuals in Erath and Parker counties, the program is growing. More than $15,000 dollars worth of feed was donated by ACCO Show Feeds from Cargill Animal Nutrition have allowed the program to expand to include more animals and youth.
Ag Lifestyles, a television program aired on RFD-TV network, featured the group of Foster's children and Tarleton students grooming animals in preparation for the Erath County Livestock Show.
"There have been several people who have done this sort of thing in the past," said Dr. Barry Lambert, animal science department head. "Jerry Jones contacted me and asked me if I could find some Tarleton students who would be interested in helping in a mentor capacity."
Lambert said that one reason for encouraging Tarleton students to interact was to encourage the foster children to think more seriously about attending college.
"We paired two Tarleton students to one foster student," Lambert said. "We felt like this scenario would provide the most opportunity for both our students and the 25 foster students."
Tarleton students worked a few hours each week to help the foster children learn about their animals and provide showmanship instruction. FHAST students were also able to gain insight into the lives of the foster children.
"It was great opportunity for me to grow as a person," said Jeralyn Stephens, a sophomore agricultural communications major from McKinney, Texas. "More than that though, I was able to help a child build a meaningful relationship. These kids are so strong and have been through a lot. This program allowed me to realize that I should not take things for granted and to focus on the positive aspects of life."
Tarleton will continue its participation in this program and hopes to include more learning areas as well as to use more student volunteers.
"We hope to expand this program," Lambert said. "We want to get other departments and academic colleges involved. It's not something that is specific to showing animals. It could be sports, art or music. We feel that we could make an impact on these children's lives through these types of mentoring programs."