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Ag program puts seniors to work

One man’s vision has grown into a game changer for students at Loyd Star Attendance Center.

Billy Sumrall is the director of the Agricultural Academy at Loyd Star. He started the program four years ago to fill a need at the high school.

“People don’t understand how big agriculture is, whether it’s in economics, writing, photography, welding, fabrication, veterinarian technology, we cover a whole range of things,” he said.

Through their participation in the Ag program, students have improved in other classes.

“Students now understand why they have that math class. We pair what we’re teaching with math, science and English. By the time they graduate from the program, you can see each of the students really getting a grasp on how this may apply to them in their everyday lives,” said Sumrall.

About 100 students have spent the school year in the agriculture program. Thirteen of those are seniors and of those, six will be headed straight into careers after graduation. The remaining seven seniors have plans to continue their education in college.

“We’re starting to get more business and industries to look at our graduating students, because they are going to have a better work ethic, better skill set and they know how to follow directions,” Sumrall said. “I’m trying to get them ready to go to work or continue their education.”

Students can begin the program in the eighth grade and continue with several different programs through senior year. Classes include agriculture science technology, animal science and agriculture mechanics.

One of the electives that really intrigues students is the fundamentals and exploratory class. It gives students the option to come in and focus on anything they want to do as long as it’s agriculture or work related.

Senior Jeffrey Kramer has taken advantage of the high school program. “I really enjoy it because you get to have hands-on experience. It helps you get ready for jobs you plan on having a career in,” he said. “Mr. Billy got me into welding and I just fell in love with it. I plan on going into welding or be an operator of a CNC (welding) machine,” Kramer said.

Sumrall leaves a lasting impression on his students. “Knowing where these guys and girls have come from and seeing them through the years, for us in the agriculture program, it’s a pretty proud moment,” he said. “I think the graduating students see the things we are trying to lead them to do. I think it’s going to pay off, I really do.

Recently, Loyd Star was named as one of three schools in Mississippi to introduce drone technology through agriculture. This will help with agriculture engineering, imagery and data collection, he said.

However, because of budget cuts through the Mississippi Department of Education, the project is on hold.

Photo by Matt Rushing/Billy Sumrall teaches a class in the agriculture program at Loyd Star Attendance Center.