Students took their turn Wednesday showing their young sheep at the Wisconsin State Fair. Vincent High School student Kiara Little, who wants to be a veterinarian, was waiting to show her freshly-shorn creamy-colored sheep named Teddy Bear.
The sheep are organized by breed, for example Hampshire and Southdown, and then by their weight. While some can weigh up to 150 pounds, Kiara's sheep is little — Teddy Bear weighs just 90 pounds.
Milwaukee Public Schools' Vincent High School on Milwaukee’s northwest side sits on 70 acres and is home not only to sheep, but goats, chickens, a couple of heifers and a horse.
The menagerie expanded Kiara’s horizons, “Now I want to get into farming veterinarian with these types of animals instead of dogs and cats,” she says.
But her immediate focus is on state fair. For months, Kiara's been feeding and taking Teddy Bear for daily walks around the school grounds to build his muscle. Once it was almost time for state fair, Kiara began bracing Teddy Bear — making sure his neck and legs are straight, so he can flex his muscles and the judges can see how big he is, Kara explains.
While Kiara is the veteran among her classmate – she showed her first lamb at state fair last year – Arianna Taylor is a newbie, but a seemingly unflappable one.
Arianna stepped up to tend two lambs when a classmate needed help. She relished shearing their wool and wants her sheep to look magnificent.
“This morning I rinsed him off and washed with special sheep soap ... and then because he has a lot of fur on his legs I have to brush his fur up so it gets poufy,” Arianna explains.
Gail Kraus says when Vincent opened in the late 1970s, the school focused on agricultural sciences, natural resources and international studies.
Over the years, those programs all but disappeared. Kraus is one of the people bringing the school’s agriculture program back to life.
“I am now the agriculture administrator and we’re going to continue to transform Vincent to Vincent High School of Agricultural Sciences,” Kraus says.
Today students can choose from multiple pathways, including agribusiness, food science and horticulture.
Kraus watches proudly as Vincent students parade their sheep in the sawdust-carpeted ring for the judge’s review.
It’s the kind of hands-on experience Kraus wants all Vincent students to have, “Just them standing like this and then they have to control the animal and they’ve never done it before,” she says.
Student Santiasha Smith says she enjoyed the experience. “I loved actually being out there and show everybody else that I’m able to do it,” she says.
Kiara placed 10th in her division. That’s progress, she says.
“I did better than last year. Last year, [my sheep] almost got out of my hands and almost ran around,” Kiara explains.
The day after state fair ends, Vincent High School’s school year begins. Kiara will be diving into advanced animal science with the benefit of this state fair building block.
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