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NCCA FFA student project continues to impact the special needs community

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton County Career Academy hosted its second annual Unique Kids Showing Pigs Livestock show for special needs students, which stemmed from a student's project two years ago. 

Each year, students within the Career Academy's agricultural department are tasked with an SAE, or supervised agricultural experience, which covers a wide variety of potential projects and topics. 

As a freshman two years ago, NCCA student Meredith McCrorey came up with the idea for her SAE after taking an agricultural class with several students with disabilities. After seeing the joy that one of those students received from participating in the Career Academy's Livestock show, McCrorey made it her goal to bring that same joy to other students with disabilities.

Meredith McCrorey
Meredith McCrorey. - photo by Submitted Photo

"In that class, there was one kid, in particular, that was always interested in showing livestock," McCrorey said. "After she was given the opportunity in that show, I knew that was something that I wanted every kid to get the opportunity to do." 

This process was not an easy one as McCrorey had to help coordinate fundraising and meet with certain officials that were over the special education programs in the county. She said they had to make sure they were reaching more than one kid for this event and that everyone was given the opportunity to attend.

This required careful planning as they had to tailor the event to make sure all kids would be able to attend and that the event was accessible enough for each student. Such careful planning for this type of event indeed shows how much McCrorey genuinely cared for the needs of each special needs child and how she wanted to make it a remarkable day for each child in attendance. 

"For me, it's not about the pictures that were taken. For me, it's about seeing the smiles on those kids' faces. If you saw any of the pictures from this weekend, every kid had a smile on their face," McCrorey said. "I know how important it is for them to be included in everything we do. I saw freshman year how I could take agriculture out of the classroom, and I wanted every kid to be able to do that."

With many requirements having to be met, McCrorey credited her advisers at the Career Academy, Marcus Pollard and Cecily Gunter, for helping her move her idea in the right direction.

"Mr. Pollard and Ms.Gunter were a huge help in this process, they were pretty much the backbone of this show," McCrorey said. "To me, it was just an idea, but once I came to them with an idea, they put in a lot of effort to make this possible. So without them, this show wouldn't even have been a thing, so they heard my ideas and brought them to reality."

While this had to be a team effort, Pollard believed much of the credit should go to the students and McCrorey for their efforts in bringing this event to light and growing it.

"She spoke to different boards, they put together presentations, this was not something done casually," Pollard said. "This is very much a kids' idea and kid-driven. Our kids spoke to different people to raise money to buy T-shirts and medals and do concessions. It's just so cool to see the kids do that."

About 27 special needs students from around the area attended the event this year, and McCrorey was delighted with the turnout as it showed growth from last year's event.

"I'm extremely happy that this has continued on because I feel like the more shows we have, then the more families we will have that will want to participate, and I think the more kids we get, the better this event will get," McCrorey said. "I was extremely thrilled with the turnout because we had about 10 kids the first year, but this year we almost tripled that number with 27 kids, so I was really thrilled to see the willingness of kids to come together."

Pollard was just as happy to see the growth and how this event has progressed in only one year. Pollard mentioned that last year's event happened at their agricultural center, but this year's event occurred at the new Newton County Agricultural Center and the C.O. Otis and Nell Mitcham Nixon Arena, which was dedicated to donors on the same day as their livestock show.

He thought that it was awesome timing for the event, as it coincided with the dedication of this new agricultural arena. It was also easy to tell how proud Pollard was of the dedication to this livestock show that the kids have had, McCrorey, especially as the brains behind it. 

"For them to follow through with our advising and take action, that's applying things far beyond what we are learning in the classroom. I'm super proud. Proud isn't even the word," Pollard said. "I hope that she realizes how proud we are of her. She's just a unique individual."

Amazingly enough, McCrorey is only a junior in high school and currently sits as the president of the FFA. Pollard knows that she will go on to do better things eventually, but he is already planning with McCrorey to help keep this event progressing in the future.

"We've already talked about how she's going to have to pull someone under her wing, and the ins and outs so that this can continue long after she is gone," Pollard said.