As the rodeo begins, a future farmer prepares for the end

Original story from the Galveston County Daily News

Morgan Perez looks up at her teacher before starting her routine at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility at Dickinson High School on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez is a nine year member of Dickinson's Future Farmers of America organization.

Morgan Perez looks up at her teacher before starting her routine at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility at Dickinson High School on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez is a nine year member of Dickinson's Future Farmers of America organization.

Through nine years, 100 shows, 38 awards and over a dozen animals, Morgan Perez has found a home in Dickinson’s Future Farmers of America organization. 

“I breathe and sleep the barn,” Perez said. 

Morgan Perez walks out of the bathroom after changing from her scrubs at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez came to the barn straight from a day of clinicals for Dickinson's Certified Nursing Assistant program.

Morgan Perez walks out of the bathroom after changing from her scrubs at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez came to the barn straight from a day of clinicals for Dickinson's Certified Nursing Assistant program.

Morgan Perez begins her routine at the barn by bringing feed to her heifer, Mavis, at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility at Dickinson High School on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez spends about 2-3 hours at the barn daily.

Morgan Perez begins her routine at the barn by bringing feed to her heifer, Mavis, at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility at Dickinson High School on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez spends about 2-3 hours at the barn daily.

A senior at Dickinson High School, Perez is showing livestock in her last Galveston County Fair & Rodeo this April. With her heifer, Mavis, and lamb, Vader, she will compete in the Junior Heifer Commercial Show and the Junior Market Lamb Show.

Perez has found success in the agriculture group and continues working to get as much out of it as she can. Many students ask her for help with showmanship when they see her at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility, because of her ability to connect with animals, she said.

Mavis peeks her head through her stall while Morgan Perez sweeps around it at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez cleans Mavis' stall every day.

Mavis peeks her head through her stall while Morgan Perez sweeps around it at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez cleans Mavis' stall every day.

Morgan Perez brushes her lamb, Vader's wool to detangle any knots at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez must keep Vader's wool under wrap, because Vader will pick the hair off when he's alone.

Morgan Perez brushes her lamb, Vader's wool to detangle any knots at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez must keep Vader's wool under wrap, because Vader will pick the hair off when he's alone.

Morgan Perez holds Vader's face while practicing for the Junior Market Lamb Show in the practice arena at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The show will be on Sunday, March 31 at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.

Morgan Perez holds Vader's face while practicing for the Junior Market Lamb Show in the practice arena at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The show will be on Sunday, March 31 at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.

Perez mainly helps students with their livestock handling techniques and showmanship, which has helped some receive higher recognition at shows. She also works closely with her younger sister, Destiny, who will be showing a goat in the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo this year.

Helping other students to raise and show livestock has become a passion for Perez that she hopes to continue after finishing her education.

“It’s so expensive and difficult to be a part of FFA,” Perez said. “I want to open my own cattle business to help people who can’t afford to house animals and help teach kids how to show without having to pay a lot of money.”

Morgan Perez teaches Lauren Maroul how to show a heifer while practicing at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez teaches students in need of extra help with handling livestock and showmanship.

Morgan Perez teaches Lauren Maroul how to show a heifer while practicing at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez teaches students in need of extra help with handling livestock and showmanship.

Morgan Perez shows Justin Ouzenne how she holds a goat while showing at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez hopes she can continue helping Dickinson FFA students while she can after she graduates this year.

Morgan Perez shows Justin Ouzenne how she holds a goat while showing at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez hopes she can continue helping Dickinson FFA students while she can after she graduates this year.

After making it through a busy four years in high school, Perez plans to attend the College of the Mainland and then transfer to the University of Texas Medical Branch to study nursing. Perez hopes to work as a nurse practitioner while working with FFA students on the side.

Perez spends around 20 hours a week at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility, where most students house and take care of their livestock. She balances this time with regular school work, studying, scholarship applications and clinical training for Dickinson’s Certified Nursing Assistant program.

Perez has always enjoyed being around animals, but started loving the competition in high school.

“Doing FFA made me open up to people when I used to be a shy kid,” Perez said. “It’s taught me responsibility and given me a leadership opportunity I would have never had before.”

Morgan Perez opens the gate for the practice arena at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Students can use the arena to practice how they will show their various livestock at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.

Morgan Perez opens the gate for the practice arena at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Students can use the arena to practice how they will show their various livestock at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.

Christy and Morgan Perez shear Emery McCollum's steer at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Morgan and her mother have been able to spend time helping other students prepare for the rodeo.

Christy and Morgan Perez shear Emery McCollum's steer at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Morgan and her mother have been able to spend time helping other students prepare for the rodeo.

Balancing her daily life while making the club a priority has also helped prepare Perez for the responsibilities and struggles of the real world. This year, she lost her first animal unexpectedly, a steer named Little Man.

“It was really hard losing my steer in the middle of the year,” Perez said.

Animals become much more than pets to students after nearly a year caring for them.

“It’s like taking care of a child every day, because you really bond with the animals,” Perez said. “Years have made it easier, but it’s always hard to watch the market animals go.”

Morgan Perez cleans her heifer, Mavis' stall at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez must brush, feed, clean and practice with her two animals every day.

Morgan Perez cleans her heifer, Mavis' stall at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Perez must brush, feed, clean and practice with her two animals every day.

Morgan Perez helps her sister, Destiny, pose her goat in the practice arena as their mom looks on at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Their mother, Christy Perez, frequently helps and watches the girls take care of their animals.

Morgan Perez helps her sister, Destiny, pose her goat in the practice arena as their mom looks on at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Their mother, Christy Perez, frequently helps and watches the girls take care of their animals.

Through stress and hardships, Perez has a constant support system through her parents, Christy and Lee Perez. Morgan and Destiny help each other while their parents let them take the reins on raising their animals.

“We are just so proud of Morgan,” Christy said. “She has become such an independent person and so many kids look up to her; it’s amazing to witness.”

“She has become so confident and responsible. FFA has really helped her grow and mature on her own.”

Morgan Perez attempts lead Haley Ferrell's calf to the practice arena at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Ferrell's heifer had a calf in February, so she will be showing both at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.

Morgan Perez attempts lead Haley Ferrell's calf to the practice arena at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Ferrell's heifer had a calf in February, so she will be showing both at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.

Morgan Perez picks up food for her heifer while preparing for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez placed seventh in the Junior Breeding Beef Heifer Show: Chianina at the Houston rodeo.

Morgan Perez picks up food for her heifer while preparing for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Perez placed seventh in the Junior Breeding Beef Heifer Show: Chianina at the Houston rodeo.

Morgan Perez walks her heifer, Mavis, to the trailer while preparing to leave for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Perez and the other FFA students had to leave Dickinson at 4:00 a.m.

Morgan Perez walks her heifer, Mavis, to the trailer while preparing to leave for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Perez and the other FFA students had to leave Dickinson at 4:00 a.m.

Perez competed in the Junior Breeding Beef Show Chianina with her heifer, Mavis, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this year. She placed seventh and received a scholarship from Steer Starlettes, a sub-committee of the Steer Auction Committee.

Although it’s her final competition, Perez is looking forward to her last shows as a student.

“It’s going to be hard and I’m probably going to cry when it’s over,” Morgan said. “But I have been making this the most memorable year ever.”

Morgan Perez smiles after her heifer, Mavis is loaded onto a trailer headed for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Perez will compete in her final show as a student at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo this April.

Morgan Perez smiles after her heifer, Mavis is loaded onto a trailer headed for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Dickinson Agriculture Science Facility on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Perez will compete in her final show as a student at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo this April.