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Home News-Telegram News Beyond the Classroom: SSHS FFA, Dan Froneberger receive Award of Excellence

Beyond the Classroom: SSHS FFA, Dan Froneberger receive Award of Excellence

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Sulphur Springs High School’s agriculture department is a thriving program with about 200 students enrolled in classes, including about 80 in shop-type classes.

The program includes agriculture mechanics, animal science and horticulture programs which offer numerous opportunities for students to learn valuable skills through hands-on practice, prepare for the work force and put to use many of the lessons they’ve learned in other classes, and chances to earn scholarships.

“In education, what some don’t understand is that we bridge the gap,” said Dan Froneberger, who along with Dannie Johnson and Amber Norris teach the agriculture classes at SSHS.

For instance, in math they use the Pythagorean theorem to plot points for projects, then cut them out of metal. They use science in welding; they use and have to have knowledge of different gases. They use their English skills to detail all of the stages of their projects.

“They have to know how to express themselves,” Froneberger noted.

It helps prepare some students for the workforce, often giving them a leg up against the competition who has no prior experience. For some it’s a temporary job at a higher pay while they work their way through college, for others it means a step above entry level and entry level pay. Some jobs can include manufacturing products like trailers. 

Students learn to build projects; landscape, grow and care for many types of flora; as well as vehicle repairs; compete with projects at state shows and events; and be good employees.

“We teach them what we call soft skills — first skills. Be the first on and last off and all the things in between. You’ll be a good employee,” Froneberger said.

These departments this weekend were able to show off their projects and skills along those participating in family and consumer science and health science departments at Saturday’s Career and Technology Education Extravaganza.

The animal sciences students compete in local and regional shows and sales, while the ag mechanics students have opportunities to compete with their shop projects at six different shows and fairs each year, including the San Antonio Livestock Show.

Often each competition calls for a different project or modification to existing projects, as each have their own rules, categories and specifications.

Last month, SSHS FFA came home with two awards and received recognition for six projects.

Carson Hicks, Ethan Phillips and Drew Forsman won second place with their 24-foot lobby trailer.

Seth Stout, Jordan Persall, Keegan Morris and Mauro Basio’s shop table placed fourth.

Receiving blue ribbons for their projects were Lindsey Froneberger with the small animal surgical table she built; Edward Perez and Garret Vickery with their push blade; Clancy Horton with a hay feeder; and Bryce Gorton and Colter Phillips for the shop table they built.

While that’s not unusual for the ag students, who often come home with awards, ribbons, cash and other prizes, what was impressive were the two special awards received by SSHS at the meet.

Student Edward Perez went home with the  Houstonians Offering our Friendship Award, an honor given to a youngster who has overcome hardship to succeed. In addition to the recognition, it also comes with a $1,500 check.

Houstonians Offering Our Friendship is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides financial support to hard working FFA and 4-H students who have shown determination in overcoming extraordinary trials and/or hardships over the past year. The program was started to assist students and families who work hard on raising and showing animals or building projects for their local FFA and 4-H chapters. 

Not only does Perez work to help his family financially, he also helps his classmates and teachers.

“He was the last one to get done with his project because he stopped and was helping everyone else. He works with me on Saturdays; he won’t take lunch unless I do,” Froneberger said. “We submitted the application for Edward. I wrote the essay and a couple of the dads  wrote a few paragraphs and we submitted it. He received the award and $1,500.”

The Dr. Billy Harrell Award for Excellence was presented to SSHS FFA and ag teacher Dan Froneberger, who admits he was surprised but very honored to be presented the banner and bronze statue given in Harrell’s name for excellence.

“He was the highest authority in Texas when it came to ag mechanics,” Froneberger said of Harrell, a professor of agriculture mechanization from 1969-2006 at Sam Houston State University. “This honor was one of the biggest honors I have ever won with my students.” 

Harrell, until his death in 2010, was actively involved in many facets of agriculture education and mechanization. He conducted agricultural mechanics certification workshops for Texas Education Agency to qualify agricultural science teachers to teach pre-employment laboratory courses at the secondary level; non-credit agricultural mechanics short courses for secondary agricultural science teachers; developed and conducted FFA Tractor Technician Contests for the 10 Texas agricultural sciences areas; developed and conducted the Area IX FFA Agricultural Mechanics Career Development Event; and hosted the State FFA Leadership Development Events in agricultural skills, to name a few of his accomplishments and affiliations in the field.

Harrell started the Houston Ag Mechanics Show in the parking lot of the show more than three decades ago; there were just 53 projects that year. He Harrell served as superintendent of FFA and 4-H agriculture mechanics projects show and Texas FFA Tractor Technician Contest at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In 1998, HLSR inducted him into the show’s Hall of  Honor.

Recipients are selected by the committee who puts on the annual show. It’s based not just on quality projects but on the department as a whole and can take into consideration a school’s performance and comportment.

“The committee visits with the kids. I saw them talking to them, but I thought we were just visiting,” said Froneberger.

Froneberger said the department’s successes over the years has been due in large part not only to the students who prepare and show the projects, but also the collaborative partnership of the school and community.

A lot of extra time is put in by students, dads and ag teachers after hours and on weekends working on the projects. Then there are the former students, who donate time periodically to drop by and lend a hand where needed. Summer Gregory, for instance, stops by to help kids with drawings for projects. Chris Clement spends time with the students when possible, even helps with ideas. Colten Froneberger helps them with welding.

“We are a close family,” Froneberger said. “We are like a large family. Everybody takes care of each other. If gets behind on a project, we’ll go over and help them out.”

There are community partnerships too — businesses that sponsor or request projects, which help with the cost for students.

Projects can be costly as materials such as metal aren’t cheap. A trailer, for instance could cost $10,000. That’s  a lot of out-of-pocket money for a student and family, especially when they build multiple projects a year. That’s why sponsors are so important.

“I get calls every day,” Froneberger said of businesses’ interest in having SSHS ag students build projects for them.

Not only do the sponsors get quality products, the kids are often learning skills that can translate to jobs or help further their understanding of their fields. 

They even work with two others schools to host the annual Barbecue Build-Off, slated May 22. Como-Pickton and Cooper ag departments help cut out all of the parts which will be given to teams up for the challenge of building a barbecue grill in six hours. Local businesses help sponsor this event too.

The annual program was started to even the odds for all participants. Shop shows are by nature varied, sometimes pitting a surgery table against a feed table — two very different projects — simply because each does not have the own category. And, depending on what judges are looking for, a project that wins a grand championship at one show might not place at another.

The SSHS build-off is designed to be even across the board. All 12 school teams are given the same materials to make the barbecue pit. Like a professional job site, each school must provide all of the tools needed to construct the grill, including welding equipment, trailer and a generator for electricity, if required, along with whatever foods they’ll be preparing for judging. The schools then get to take their project and can use it as a fundraiser if they choose.

Community members can also catch a glimpse of and even bid on some of the projects the kids have built during the upcoming auction April 26.

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