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Local makes it to national FFA finals
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An accident in scheduling during high school turned into national honor and recognition for Josie Stamps, a member of the Newton County Future Farmers of America Chapter.

The 18-year-old Newton High School 2012 graduate competed at the 85th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo held in Indianapolis from Oct. 24-27, where more than 55,000 FFA members attended the event.
While at the conference, Stamps placed top four in the country for Equine Science Entrepreneurship Proficiency. She received the award for her project of training horses and teaching children how to ride horses.

Stamps, who now attends Georgia State University as a freshman, was announced the 2012 Equine Science state winner at the 84th State FFA Convention held at the Macon Centreplex in April, which gave her the opportunity to compete in nationals. She said she never imagined she would go to nationals when she competed on the state level.

"Oh my goodness it was amazing. I was not expecting it," Stamps said. "The way the proficiency's go - the state winners go in and compete and you can get bronze, silver or gold ranking; and then you can get a pass gold ranking in the top four. I was expecting to be in one of the other areas.

"I was going in to win essentially - I mean that's how you do it with everything you compete in; but when I found out I made top four and would actually be going to nationals it was like just icing on the cake for my last year essentially."

Stamps first joined the Newton County Chapter of FFA in 2009 during her sophomore year of high school. She said she signed up for the organization after she accidentally registered for an agriculture class instead of a French course.

"I had ruined my schedule. So I said okay, I'll take an Ag class and see how this is. And I don't know, I joined the club and decided that it was a lot of fun and I really liked it and I got a pig."

I just got sucked into the entire thing. I went and bought a pig and I showed the pig," she said. "When you show pigs, you kind of have them in the arena all nice and clean, and it's like which pig looks the best essentially."

"I only showed it three times and after that I was like, ‘I wanted to stick with the horses.'"

Stamps grasped a love of horses at her parents' hunter/jumper facility in Oxford, Wildflower Farm, which was established in 1998. Her mom, Kathleen, has taught horse lessons to children for 20-plus years. Kathleen said Josie began helping her with teaching lessons when Josie was in the fifth grade and it sort of became a natural progression for her. Josie talked about her first encounters with horses long before she began teaching others about her passion.

"I started showing horses and doing beginners stuff when I was about four years old; so, I've been riding horses ever since I was four," she said. "I had a pony and she was absolutely tiny. Her name was Tinkerbell and she was a little white pony. I just kind of grew up in it just how kids kind of grow up in any sport."

Josie said her work with horses was separate from the agriculture program at NHS because horses aren't considered livestock. She said she competed with horses through the Newton County FFA chapter.

"The entirety of the project was here at this farm and then my students and the horses travel to horse shows," she said.

"I have a couple of younger students right now. I think the youngest one I have is five and then the oldest person I teach, she is 18," Josie said. "The type I teach is called hunter/jumper. So you can jump eventually and it's also hunt seat style riding."

Josie gives lessons to ages 4-years old and up after school during the weekdays. She said she advertises for new students through local newspapers, magazines and at livestock shows. Though she enjoys teaching lessons, the undecided GSU freshman said she is interested in taking up something different for a major.

"I always want to have horses in my life and I always want to have a horse and ride horses; but I don't think I want to do horses professionally," she said. "I'm thinking about either getting a degree in biology or physics or possibly business. I just want to take classes in everything that I am interested in."

Kathleen said she is proud of her daughter and her son, Harrison, who's a junior at NHS, for their involvement in FFA. She said the program has given both of her children leadership opportunities and additional guidance.

"I never expected all of this from FFA I never ever thought that this would happen," she said. "The whole organization - I am totally blown away by it, totally blown away, more than any other thing that we have been involved with our kids."