Students Celebrate National FFA Week at SMILES

Image Students Celebrate National FFA Week      at SMILES

Thomas Atwater is assisted by volunteer Greg Linder during a special Recreational Ride at SMILES, in Darien. The ride was a part of celebrating National FFA Week for the students of Ft. Atkinson High School.


Students from Ft. Atkinson High School celebrated National FFA week with some special classmates and some special horses. It was the hope of the students from Mr. Jeff Agnew’s Animal Science Class to find a way to celebrate that would include ALL of the school’s FFA members.  “There are some opportunities that some of our FFA members cannot participate in,” said Mr. Agnew, “but here at SMILES, they can participate in everything.”


Jennifer Weidenfeller, a student at Ft. Atkinson, suggested the outing.  She learned about the program at SMILES, and the opportunities called “Rec Rides” from her mother. She considered the idea for her fellow classmates, and began the wheels in motion.  Jennifer hoped that the experience would be beneficial for them, and she shared in the excitement and anticipation of those special FFA members who would participate.


On Wednesday February 24, ten students with special needs celebrated National FFA Week by riding, grooming, feeding and leading therapy horses from the SMILES herd. The ten students were accompanied by many of their peers who attended with them to provide support, encouragement, and on occasion, a round of applause. “As a teacher, and an FFA Advisor, this has been a very rewarding experience because the idea came directly from the students,” said Mr. Agnew. “Ultimately, we want to create opportunity for all students.  Sometimes there are things that some of our students cannot do.  But this, they can.”


Gay Stran, the Executive Director at SMILES, states that this Rec Ride was indeed very special.  “Our entire staff was very touched by the thoughtfulness and sense of inclusion that these FFA members had for some of their special peers.  We were honored to be a part of this celebration”