PALMVIEW - Monica Smith loves animals. Period. Which is why you can find her in this barn behind Palmview High School several hours out of the day.
"Yes I am, everyday after school," said Monica Smith, FFA student.
She's part of Palmview High Schools FFA program.
"I never knew about FFA until last year. and when I found out about it, I was like I have to get into every single thing that they have," said Smith.
It's a club and a class that allows students to raise and show livestock animals like pigs, goats and cows. It's a different kind of learning environment, one that requires a little sweat to succeed.
"Students usually, they are not very responsible. So once they become aware that they are in charge of an animal and the life of an animal, it definitely teaches them responsibility, time management, skills with money," said Arnoldo Solis, FFA Teacher.
And the students also become closer with their parents, because this program requires parent involvement.
"We try to get the parents to come in, once they come in they themselves bond with their kids a lot more," said Solis.
But this isn't the case for Smith, she stands alone next to her heifer Jessica. Her parent's can't be here.
"Ever since I was little, I grew up in a home full of dogs, cats, snakes, rabbits, everything I have been around it all," said Smith.
Animals were an outlet of happiness in a home that wasn't always a happy place to live.
"I came from a broken home, it wasn't easy finding out my father, who I thought was my father was abusing me with out me even knowing with my mom catching him, with my mom having to move homes so we could be more secure," said Smith.
Past problems that forced Smith to build imaginary walls around herself, that is until she stepped into the FFA barn.
It was actually the animals and FFA, that broke down Smith's tough outer shell and gave her the strength to make one of the hardest decisions of her life. The decision of leaving her family.
Her mother, step-father and siblings moved earlier in the year to Missouri for work. But Smith stayed behind to complete her goals and dreams of becoming a vet.
"It was really hard loosing her, but this is my family, but they have been with me here through everything," said Smith with tears in her eyes.
Smith knows she isn't alone, and now feels a deeper responsibility to FFA.
"It is the best for me to give back to this community, to this organization, they have done so much for me, they have held me hand through everything possible," said Smith.
And that terrible past never is unleashed on the animals. Smith always has the softness of touch and the kindness of words when dealing with the big boned animals. She is a 17 year old girl, teaching animals the respect she was never given as a child.
"I don't use it as an excuse of why I should be hating the world, I use it as I should give back to the world because that has happened to me," said Smith.
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