A Texas homeschooled teen nearly missed the chance to reap the rewards of his hard work when officials tried to prevent him from participating in a local livestock show.

Trey Schumpert, now in his first year of high school, has participated in his local 4-H club since the 3rd grade. (4-H operates youth development programs throughout the United States as an extension of the federal Department of Agriculture.) He started out raising miniature Herefords, but eventually switched to full-sized steers of various breeds.

Trey was homeschooled in the 8th grade, but enrolled in the local public high school last fall so he could play sports at the high school. He soon discovered that the rigid schedule made it difficult for him to engage in ranch and agricultural work on his family’s 900 acres.

“He’s big into farming,” Misty Schumpert, Trey’s mom, said. “He loves to be on the tractor.”

At Trey’s request, Misty withdrew him from school and restarted his home education program in January. She said that learning from home is a much better fit for Trey, as it allows him time to study and help care for about 100 head of cattle on the family ranch.

Status Check

In anticipation of competing in the county’s junior livestock show, Trey also continued to work on his 4-H project, a steer bred from a Limousin-Angus mix. However, shortly before the deadline to enter the livestock competition, a dispute over Trey’s status as a student nearly prevented him from participating.

While in public high school, Trey had participated in FFA, a youth agricultural training organization that typically partners with local school districts.

When Trey withdrew from public high school, he also withdrew from the school’s FFA program. As a result, the board of the livestock show said Trey now stood in violation of the rule that competitors must be involved in FFA or some other “secondary agricultural educational programs” to participate.

Misty decided she needed help. She took advantage of her HSLDA membership and called our office.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Darren Jones sent a letter to the junior livestock show board on Trey’s behalf. Jones pointed out that “in Texas, homeschools operate as legal private schools as recognized by the Texas Supreme Court.”

Jones added that Trey’s legally recognized status as a homeschool student qualified him for participation in FFA, and that his work with the local 4-H club classified him as “an active member” of that organization.

Cleared to Compete

After hearing from Jones, the livestock show board relented and accepted Trey as a competitor. The teen showed his steer the first week of March, and placed third in the heavyweight division. He also earned money by auctioning his steer after the show.

Misty said the money will help fund his next project and perhaps help pay for further education after high school. But for now, the reward he gets from showing and selling livestock “is more about the experience and learning,” she said.  

Misty added that she was grateful for HSLDA’s help in resolving the situation with the livestock board.

“If we hadn’t fought for it, Trey wouldn’t have been able to show,” she said. “It comes in handy to have someone to back you up.”