Smithville agriculture students ‘Live to Serve’

Students in the agriculture and natural resources class at Smithville Attendance Center embody servant leadership by building steps and stools for a fourth grade student with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism.

In the last two years, about 35 agriculture students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, have been a great help in Makinley Branham’s life. Living with dwarfism creates many unique challenges for Branham, especially in a school setting. With the idea of blending classroom instruction and community service, her second grade teacher reached out to the agriculture class for help.

This idea of using concepts learned in the classroom to help others proved to be a fantastic way for students to engage with one another and those they are helping. When planning projects to help Branham, students reached out to her, made her feel comfortable, and reassured her they would get the measurements just right so she could enjoy more freedom at school without asking for help with everyday activities.

Kayla Eaton, an agriculture teacher at Smithville Attendance Center, said she is proud to see her students build leadership skills and see the rewards earned by helping others.

“Younger students always look up to older students,” Eaton said. “This transforms into building a strong leadership foundation. I enjoy seeing how rewarded my students feel after helping Makinley and others in our school and community.”

Branham uses her steps and stools at her desk and in the computer lab, and agriculture students added new steps in a bathroom. Her mother, Bethany Branham, reached out to the students to thank them for caring for her daughter and to show her support for their work in the community.

October is Dwarfism Awareness Month, so Bethany Branham is looking at ways to incorporate the agriculture class in awareness activities at school.

Aside from their work with Makinley Branham, the students involved in the Smithville FFA Chapter continue to work in the community to help others. Every year, the agriculture students plant a raised-bed garden. They tend the garden daily and donate their harvest to a local food bank.. These projects have created a positive change in the students. Now, they talk more, interact better together, and take more time to think before they act.

Eaton said she is very thankful to see her students succeed and become a positive influence to others as they exemplify the National FFA Organization’s motto: Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, and living to serve.

“In agriculture education, we discuss FFA in the classroom,” she said. “I am so thankful that my students are getting the opportunity to selflessly live to serve right here in the classroom.”


Connections is the magazine for K-12 career and technical education (CTE) in Mississippi. The biannual publication features students, educators, schools, and organizations from approximately 50 career pathways across 16 career clusters. This Mississippi Department of Education publication is produced by the Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State University. Issues are disseminated in print and electronic forms in May and December each year.

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