FFA veterinary science team to compete at nationals


Magan Escamilla

The veterinary science team practices from 7 a.m. until the bell rings.

By Natalie Brink, Vandegrift High School

In the smallest classroom in the school, tucked away in the back of the CTE wing, four students stand over stuffed animals and laminated pictures from the internet and books. They know they will soon compete against teams that have access to high end resources. They know the pressure they are under. They know this is their chance to be national champions.

The FFA veterinary science team will travel to Indianapolis, Ind. tomorrow to compete at the national convention, which will be held Wednesday and Thursday. The team, made up of seniors Camille Barkhuizen and Zach Roush and juniors Madeleine Rawlings and Lauren Stevens, will face off against 49 other state champion teams.

“It’s a really big deal,” Barkhuizen said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for all of us and a huge honor that we made it.”

This year’s team is the first veterinary science team to go to nationals from all of LISD. The Vandegrift team has consistently made it to the state competition for the last three years.

“This will be my first national team, and hopefully I have more in the future,” team adviser Magan Escamilla said. “It is really really rare to make it to nationals, so I’m really, really proud of the program and of these kids.”

KVUE news featured the team on the 5:30 p.m. news broadcast on Oct. 14. The broadcast followed the team as they practiced some of the practicum they will be expected to know.

“It was cool,” Escamilla said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t know about FFA. It hurts when people don’t know that we’re here in the back of the school because it’s really a lot larger than people realize.”

The team had to place first out of 1,600 teams at the state competition at the end of April to make it to nationals. The national competition, unlike state, will include a writing portion and a group oral presentation.

“I’m really excited to go to nationals,” Stevens said, “but I’m also really nervous because it’s a completely different competition than we’re used to, and there’s a lot of really good teams that are going.”

To prepare for the more challenging events at nationals, the team reviewed topics like how the opioid crisis affects pet care and the fear free model of veterinary practice. They also have to memorize 32 practicums, instead the four they had to memorize for the state competition. Usually, they practiced two to three times a week from 7 a.m. up until the bell.

“It takes a lot more studying and work than most people think it would,” Stevens said. “You have to dedicate your time to it and want to be there and want to study and want to go to competitions.”

After the team competes at nationals, they will never have the chance to compete in veterinary science again because in the eyes of FFA, they have shown mastery of the skill by becoming state champions

“I ask a lot of them,” Escamilla said. “I have high expectations because I know their potential, and I know that they can do it. To see them meet my expectations and exceed that, that means a lot to me.

The team will get to attend a private Garth Brooks concert after a day of competition Wednesday. Members said it would be a good time to relax, but their main focus is on winning.

“To place at nationals would be amazing,” Barkhuizen said. “It would be a huge honor in that we made Texas proud. It would be awesome to be able to show what we’re doing is worth something and that what we’re doing is paying off.”

This story was originally published on Vandegrift Voice on October 22, 2018.