Bob Hope High School explains benefits of agriculture program to come next year

Published 12:34 am Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Bob Hope High School is preparing to launch Port Arthur’s first school-based agriculture program next school year.

The kick-off will be the construction of a chicken coop, which school officials are hoping to build over the summer, said Kelsey Borza, fund developer for Bob Hope Schools.

Funds for the project have come from several places, including the Environmental Champions Initiative presented through Port Arthur LNG.

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There will also be the addition of a vegetable garden and the high school’s new agriculture educator, MacKenzie Morris.

Morris has been the agricultural science teacher at Hearne High School since 2019, working in the business part of the industry prior to teaching.

“I was in (Future Farmers of America) when I was in high school and pursued a degree in animal science,” Morris said. “I really wanted to share my passion with high school students and go back to where I got my start.”

The new course will start with three classes: the principles of agriculture, livestock production and small animal care/equine science.

“We are going to one day include a barn that will house swine, bovine, goats and possibly a horse,” Borza said. “Students are excited about the opportunity to have something available to them for free that they’re able to learn and experience hands-on.”

Bob Hope Schools CEO Dr. Bobby Lopez said he wanted to incorporate the program because was influenced by his own son’s experience raising a pig through FFA and believes it teaches great responsibility to students.

“Teaching kids to care for an animal will teach them to be compassionate and help build character,” Lopez said. “Also, this experience could potentially lead them to a career in farming and ranching.”

The elementary school currently operates a flower garden as part of their curriculum.

“The families come out on the weekends and help us maintain the gardens a couple of times a year,” Borza said.

But giving back to the parents and community is something Borza and Morris stressed. Food grown from the students will go to food pantries, and possibly serve as the foundation for a community plant sale.

“Student leadership and community involvement are huge factors in a successful program,” Morris said. “I look forward to being able to do that in a larger community.”

Another benefit of the program, she said, is teaching students how food goes from farm to plate, especially in a time when food prices have escalated.

“I told my current students agriculture is one of the most underestimated industry out there because people don’t consider where their food comes from,” Morris said. “With grocery prices what they are, people are starting to put more thought into that. Hopefully I can show the students they can grow their own food and even food for their community.”

Borza said students’ responsibilities in the program will relate to their age and grade level, with the older students having more duties than the younger.

Morris is excited to make the garden aspect as important as the animals.

“It’s really easy to get kids excited about animals; it’s a little more difficult to get kids excited about plants,” she said. “But I am really excited to broaden my horizons in Port Arthur. I really believe in what Bob Hope has done and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”