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Aubrey ISD Graduate Named FFA National Finalist

When Karlee Collins was in 7th grade at Aubrey Middle School, she traveled to Indianapolis for the National FFA Convention. One of her memories of the trip was seeing a Goat Production Proficiency award being presented on stage and seeing the winner’s photos flash up on the big screen. She remembers her 12-year-old self wanting to do that when she was older.  

Flash forward to October of 2020, and it was 19-year old Karlee on that national stage. Karlee was a national finalist at theKarlee Collins with her state award standing next to Dr. Belding, Mrs. Gilbreath and Mr. Yarbrough 2020 FFA Convention (virtual for 2020) in Goat Production Proficiency. After she was named the state winner in July and advanced to the national round, Karlee then became one of four finalists in the country in August. Although she wasn’t named the top winner at the convention, the national honor capped a memorable FFA career for the Aubrey ISD graduate.

“I definitely was not disappointed that I didn’t win,” Collins said. “We were incredibly grateful to become national finalists. I know of all of the finalists, and they are all great people and have great programs. I’m happy it can be a good learning process for someone in Aubrey down the road. It can be something to help future members.”

Currently a sophomore at Texas Woman’s University, Karlee is happy to have this final moment as an FFA member. With the convention being virtual, Karlee was able to share the experience with her family; her ag teachers; Jeremy and Amanda Church, the breeders she worked with; and a few close friends at the Aubrey ISD Professional Development Room, where she stood in front of a video monitor in her official dress, patiently waiting for the announcement of her award. 

The convention was the culmination of a two-year process of working on the application and 12 years as an FFA member. At end of her senior year at Aubrey High School in 2019, AHS agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor Jennifer Gilbreath encouraged Karlee to submit an application for the Goat Production Proficiency award, an award that no one at Aubrey had ever applied for. 

“Karlee had the unique program with her goats and the knowledge to go along with it,” Mrs. Gilbreath said. 

In her explanation of the award, Karlee says it is about trying to showcase your talent in how you have perfected the supervised agricultural experience (SAE), which is defined as a student-led, instructor-supervised, work-based learning experience. 

“It’s how you manage your feeding, and the health of your animals and your marketability and what you did with your program that separates you from the other people within your goat production with FFA,” Collins said. 

Karlee Collins showing one of her goats, Royal Pain, before she won Grand Champion Senior Showmanship at the Houston Livestoc One of the ways Karlee believes her goat program separated itself from the pack was her development of a sub breed and her explanation of how she was going to use genetics to make a more marketable show product. 

“I did a lot with the idea to cross-breed the two species, the Angora goat and the Boer goat,” Collins said. “A lot of people stick with one goat. On the breeding goat side, I did something that wasn’t done before in the last 50-60 years. I took breeding prospects that were my genetics, and I only worked with one other breeder (Elk Creek Boer Goat). I only worked with Jeremy Church to formulate my genetics with how I wanted my show prospects to look like.”

Her application, which was about 25 pages long and took about 20-30 hours of work, did not get past the area round in 2019. In the summer of 2020, Mrs. Gilbreath encouraged Karlee to apply again for the proficiency award. Karlee was still working with her goats so she updated the application and this time she survived the area round and went on to become a national finalist.

Because no one at Aubrey had ever applied for the award, it was a learning experience for Karlee, Mrs. Gilbreath, and Tracy Yarbrough, one of the other AHS agriculture teachers and FFA sponsors. They were navigating uncharted waters, and there was a thrill for everyone involved that Karlee became the first state winner and national finalist in this Goat Production Proficiency award for the Aubrey FFA program.

Karlee’s introduction to the Aubrey FFA program came as an eight-year-old when she followed in her older brother’s footsteps in showing goats. They both started with a goat each and then added a second goat the next year. Over the years, it became a family affair, going to shows with her brother and cousin. 

“I stuck with it because I loved the environment, and I loved being able to have an animal that was all my own to feed, to take care of, bath, clip,” Collins said. “Every year, we would get a new goat to have for our project. From there, we started making connections with people.” 

Over her career, Karlee showed her goats at all the big stock shows in Texas. Some of her top titles include winning the Grand Champion and Reserve Champion Senior Showmanship at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and being named the State Fair of Texas Premier Exhibitor three years in a row. Numerous scholarships helped her when she decided to attend Texas Woman’s University, where she is a member of the Honor Scholar Program and a percussionist studying music therapy.

“FFA taught me and molded together all the really nice life skills you need with speaking, managing your time, setting your goals,” Collins said. “I wrote a lot about how impactful FFA has been in my scholarship applications.”

Studying at TWU allows Karlee to be close to her family and her goats. She still has nine goats at home, many of them are her show babies that she has had for over five years.

Karlee may have worn her official FFA dress for the last time, but the connections she made with FFA over the last 12 years will stay with her.