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Ohio FFAer begins new livestock show for special-needs students


MILLERSBURG, Ohio — Ask any of her friends, and they will say Kylie Ramirez is constantly thinking of others.

So when it came time to working on her “Living to Serve” plan at the FFA Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., last summer, she wanted to do something different, attention-getting, and make an impact on others.

“That entire week in D.C. was based around this plan called Living to Serve and you take a plan back to positively impact your community,” said Ramirez, a junior FFA member from West Holmes High School in Millersburg, “I wanted to do something that had a big impact.”

What she dreamed of and put into action was the Be You Livestock Show, an event that invited participants with special needs to show animals at the Holmes County Fair this summer.

“While at past Holmes County Fairs, and during the recent FFA state and national conventions, I noticed there’s not a lot of special-needs kids involved,” Ramirez said. “I wasn’t sure if they didn’t think they could do it; after all, it is a lot of hard work. I just wanted them to experience what I’ve gotten to experience with the animals.”

She first presented her idea to the Holmes County Fair Board and received unanimous approval. From there, she started recruiting participants, reaching out to the school superintendent to gain permission to present her idea to special education classes in the district.

She posted the information on social media and worked with the Holmes County Training Center, a school and workshop for individuals with developmental disabilities. Nine participated in her inaugural event, ranging in ages from 6 to 33.

Ramirez also received support and the blessing of Jaime Chenevey, West Homes High School ag education teacher and FFA advisor.

“Kylie is passionate about working with special-needs individuals, perhaps because her brother is special-needs,” Chenevey said. “Kylie put her idea into action and did the work herself from start to finish.

“When Kylie first told me about this project, I thought, ‘You can do this, you need to do this.’ Kylie is such a go-getter, and when you couple that with her passion for the idea, I knew she’d make it happen.”

Ramirez partnered the participants with FFA members, having them teach the first-timers about the animals and offer tips for presenting to judges. The new students showed pigs, rabbits, and goats, and FFA members served as judges for the event.

“I wanted to show people that they can have the capabilities to do everything we can,” Ramirez said. “I also wanted to give FFA members a chance to shine, to get on the microphone as livestock judges and show off how much they know about the animals.”

She intends on holding another Be You Livestock Show at the fair next August.

“To this day I see some of those participants at the local grocery store and they come up to me and talk on and on about their experiences, and they all say they’re excited to do it again next year,” she said. “I’m exhausted, but it’s been worth it.”

Ramirez is a member of the National Honor Society, school band, student council, and Junior Fair Board, as well as FFA. Upon graduating from high school, she intends on enrolling at The Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute and eventually studying occupational therapy.