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OYEA celebrates with inaugural banquet

By John Miller, 10/26/22 10:29 AM

PRESCOTT – There was plenty to celebrate at the First Annual OYEA Banquet Tuesday night.

The event was held at the Prescott Junior High School cafeteria with the Prescott Fire Department smoking the donated chicken quarters and the Prescott Police Department furnishing the sides. The cafeteria was packed with family, friends and supporters of the program, along with OYEA students working as servers. Two raffles were held, one a “draw down” raffle where people could purchase tickets for a specific item being raffled off, such as a $250 Walmart card, an ice chest filled with treats, a porch swing and a picnic table that could also fold into a bench. The other was a “bucket” raffle where people purchased chances on meat and were given the chance to buy back in if their number proved to be unlucky.

Fred Harris provided the opening comments, telling about the OYEA program, how it started and what it does. He thanked those in the audience for coming and showing their support to the students as the program exists solely for the students, teaching them about character and respect. “We have a great group of students this year,” he said.

The program, Harris continued, keeps about two years worth of operating funds in its budget so it doesn’t need fundraisers. However, he added, the OYEA board decided to have the banquet, which was also a fundraiser, as a way to thank the community for its support. The corporate sponsors stepped up and helped. The first donors were the Darwin Hendricks Foundation and Donna and Percy Malone. Malone also gave the program its first livestock.

Darren Neal, one of the co-founders of OYEA, reminded the audience OYEA is a 501(c)3 organization and all donations are tax deductible. He said when they first started, the idea was to improve what was already on the 10 acres where the school farm is, but it grew rapidly and now has two barns and rebuilt fencing. OYEA, he continued, started its sausage program which has generated about $15,000 to date, adding the sausage is processed at a USDA facility in Horatio and is sold at Cash Savers, the Shane Meador Farm and Express Rx.

In preparing for the Nevada County Fair, he said, the program was spending around $3,000 a month. To continue showing in other areas, the program needs a specialty trailer to keep the hogs and sheep separated, but this will run $30,000 to $40,000. Neal presented a mock-up check from Farmers Bank and Trust for $12,500, saying the bank is using this as a dollar-for-dollar matching grant toward buying the trailer.

Quantas Gulley, a 2019 Prescott High School graduate and member of the OYEA program, was the featured speaker. He said 2019 was the first year for the program, and it changed his life. He pointed out he wasn’t the traditional agriculture student and didn’t know what he wanted to do. However, he got involved with OYEA and things changed. He met and talked to people and got interested in agriculture. He decided to go to attend Southern Arkansas University and get a degree in animal science, but discovered this wasn’t his calling and switched to agri business instead. This led him to getting an internship with Farm Credit last year, where he did a lot of field work and hopes to become a full-time employee after graduation next May.

“It was exciting to get the experience,” he said. “This industry isn’t understood by many. Few people know how much hard work and dedication is required, and has to be done no matter what the weather is. Agriculture is hard, but it’s worth it.”

Gulley thanked his family for helping him, adding he’s made a lot of friends along the way. “This career has showed me the world in a different light.” He pointed out he keeps up with the program on social media.

Dennis Guidry, program instructor, recognized students by the animals they showed at the county fair. He talked about how he came to Prescott after teaching 30 years in Ashdown and how this program is a stepping stone for the future of the students taking it.

OYEA students also spoke, thanking everyone for their support and talking about showing animals.

Robert Poole, Prescott superintendent, lauded Guidry saying he does a lot of things people don’t know about, including using his own truck, trailer, gas and money to go places for the students. He thanked Harris and Neal for getting the program going, adding Guidry is one of the best ag teachers in the state and the district is lucky to have him.