Thieves Target FFA Students Representing Oklahoma At National Convention
Watts, OKLAHOMA - A group of FFA students representing Oklahoma at a national convention recently overcame adversity at the hands of thieves.
They returned home with some awards and having learned a valuable life lesson.
More than half the students at Watts Public Schools are in the FFA program.
Four senior students won the state championship in the poultry judging category, qualifying them to represent Oklahoma at the national FFA competition in Indianapolis.
"We were really pumped. We were like over the top excited," said FFA student Ashley Janes.
"I'm extremely proud of them. They've worked hard," said their teacher Rick Stanislaus.
Those students, along with five others who qualified in other categories, were excited about the trip.
But, along the way, while they were at the St. Louis Arch, thieves broke into the two Watts school vehicles parked outside.
"Anything I had brought with me besides my clothes had been stolen," said student Alexis Key.
Stanislaus said, "Three laptops, iPads, iPods, game stuff, PS3, cell phones, credit cards, cash, purses."
With most of their stuff gone, there was brief talk of whether to turn around and head home. The competitors wouldn't hear of it.
"Definitely not," Janes said. "There's no way, after working this hard, we can't just give up."
"They dug down deep down in their souls and said we're going to do the best we can do, regardless," Stanislaus said.
So, they headed for nationals and it paid off. The Watts poultry judging team placed eighth out of 48 teams from across the country.
"When we got eighth in the nation, that was the point where you felt like you've overcome and beaten the world," Key said.
Even though the thieves took their belongings, the team brought home a big trophy and took away an important lesson on persistence, overcoming obstacles, and the realization that good things can happen if you get up, when you've been knocked down.
"You can't let something like that slow you down," said student Niki Ames.
Student Tora Harper said, "Things aren't going to always go your way, bad things are going to happen, but you can't let them get you down."
The Watts FFA students say it was great how they were encouraged by other FFA members from across the country, once they heard about what happened.
Tyson Foods also gave the team $1,000 to help cover some of the things the students needed.