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Youth takes ranching way of life to urban students

At eight-years-old, Weston Svoboda is already a spokesperson for rural living and the ranching lifestyle that his family maintains in the Nebraska Sandhills. Although he just completed the second grade at Sargent Public School, he's spent the last two years communicating his way of life with his peers in elementary schools in urban settings through the Ag Pen Pals program.

The young agricultural advocate is the son of Scott and Jennifer Svoboda and is the fourth generation to live on his family's ranch. He is in his second year of the Ag Pen Pals program, and this year communicated with two classrooms through written letters and videos filmed on his family's registered Angus ranch, Sand Dune Cattle Company, south of Sargent. He corresponded with a second grade class at Cottonwood Elementary School in the Millard Public School District and also with a first grade class at Gomez Heritage Elementary School near downtown Omaha, comprised of students from several ethnic backgrounds, many who speak an additional language besides English. Over the last several months, Weston has exchanged letters, sent pictures and made videos in hopes of educating his pen pals about agriculture and rural life in Nebraska.

Weston says the best part of the pen pal program is actually getting to go to their classroom and meeting the kids he's been writing to throughout the year. "I like seeing their classroom and teaching them what it is like in the country. They need to know that the food they eat grows on a farm, and the clothes they wear come from plants that grow on a farm," he says.

Although Weston is reaching out to his peers, he couldn't do it alone, and his mother, Jennifer, records the videos and provides the needed transportation to the classrooms for him.

Last week, Weston and Jennifer made the trip to Millard and Omaha to meet his pen pals in person and showed them several items used on the ranch including ear tags, branding irons, a lariat, spurs, chaps, and halters. He also taught them about the sport of rodeo, and all the kids to try their hand at roping and running a barrel pattern on a stick horse. Weston took several samples of different feeds and grains that his family raises for human and animal consumption to share with his new friends.

"All the kids wanted to come home with us and visit the ranch," Jennifer says. "I love to see how those kids absorb something brought to them by a peer; it's amazing. The kids ask so many smart questions, and they believe what Weston tells them. It is so important to educate them at that age about agriculture; they need to know at an early age where their food comes from. Weston enjoys this project so much."

And, Weston enjoys his rural lifestyle saying he appreciates his trips to the city, but he's glad he's a country boy. "In the city there is too much going on you can't even sleep. And I like having my animals out in the country," adds the young man who aspires to be a lawyer or even the president of the United States, but will always have roots as a rancher.



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