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who we are

OUR MISSION
AgVocates for Exceptional Individuals exists to promote the cognitive, social, and physical development of children with disabilities through daily care and the exhibition of livestock. 

 

OUR VISION
Our goal is to develop an individualized curriculum for the youth participating in our program. A peer mentor model is used to facilitate the livestock project, while developing the malleable character traits essential for the transition into the workforce.

 

OUR PHILOSOPHY

AgVocates for Exceptional Individuals is governed by a Philosophy of Education that fosters a learner-centered, active and interactive pedagogy that develops every child cognitively, socially, and emotionally. We provide a platform and a curriculum that naturally captures a child’s attention and directs that focus at paralleling the life skills practiced with their project to enhancing their own quality of life. Utilizing all learning modalities, our multi-sensory approach focuses on character and building self-esteem. Concept retention is remarkably higher when what is being learned is relevant and meaningful, allowing an actively engaged child to make connections with prior knowledge and experiences.

 
Meet Our Board Members:
   
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Jamie Feisal

Jamie attended the University of Oklahoma where she graduated in 2002 with a Bachelors’ degree in Communication. She spent five years as a professional in the Human Resources field before moving into the non-profit sector.  Jamie worked at NewView Oklahoma (formerly Oklahoma League for the Blind) as a Job Placement Coordinator helping individuals with low vision get the help they needed to serve in the workforce.  She also has professional experience at Feed The Children where she was part of the US Operations team. Jamie currently serves as the Chapter Advisor for Alpha Chi Omega’s Psi Chapter in Norman, Oklahoma. She lives in Yukon with her husband and one daughter. They enjoy spending time outdoors and with family.

   
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James Ferrell

James is currently the Field Services Sales rep for Sierra Chemicals, LC assisting oil and gas companies across OK, TX, KS and AR. James is also the owner of Legacy Consulting, LLC providing fundraising counsel to non-profit organizations. Prior to that he held marketing and development roles in both the agriculture and non-profit sector.

An advocate of volunteer service for over 20 years he is involved in the OKC Metro chapter of the OSU Alumni Association as well as maintaining a seat on the CASNR Alumni board of the OSU Alumni Association. He previously sat on the board for Camp Fire USA – Heart of Oklahoma Council and volunteered for Junior Achievement.

He and his wife Amy live in Yukon with their son Cooper.

   
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Matt Stiger
Matt is the son of Mindy Stiger from Jenks, Ok and Grandson of Bryan and Mary Stiger of Claremore. Raised in Jenks, Matt attended Oklahoma State University where he received degree in Physiology, Cellular and Molecular Biology and Osteopathic Medicine. He currently lives in Edmond with his wife Rachel, daughter Avery and sons Parker and Jack. Matt works as an emergency physician for Teamhealth. Matt became involved Agvocates by his work as a medical consultant for Mr. Hargis and feels blessed to a part of this organization.
   
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Dereck McPherson
Dereck is a Managing Member of RedLand ROW & Mineral Consulting, LLC. The company provides professional consulting, staffing solutions and environmental services to the Oil and Natural Gas Industry as well as Governmental and Public sector clients. The company is committed to giving back to its local FFA chapter and numerous other charitable organizations on the state and national level. He co-manages the company with his wife and business partner of seven years, Aubrey.  They currently live on their family farm in southwest Oklahoma, raising their two daughters, in the agricultural and show industries. Dereck is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and worked as an Agriculture Education Instructor before following greater personal ambitions as an entrepreneur. Mr. McPherson is a firm believer that when given the opportunity, children can achieve amazing heights no matter their labeled limitations.
   
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Kurt Bollenbach

Kurt was admitted to practice in Oklahoma in 2005. In 2006, Kurt joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Upon completion of Officer Basic Course, Kurt was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany where he acted as general counsel for Commanders, provided legal assistance to Service members, and acted as a military claims officer. Kurt received his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in 2002 where he met his future wife, Brooke. He completed law school at the University of Oklahoma, College of Law.

Kurt was born and raised in Kingfisher. From a young age, Kurt had hands-on experience working on the family ranch in Northwest-Kingfisher County. Kurt developed a love for the land and continues to work in family ranching endeavors. Kurt and Brooke enjoy spending time with their two children, Brittan and Barron. Brooke’s passion for travel has led the family to over 20 countries around the world.

   

Travis Beam
Travis is the Senior Account Executive for KOCO 5, an ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City. Beams graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications. Beams was raised around both education and agriculture in the town of Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Soon after graduating college he served as a farm broadcaster and advertising sales manager for both the Oklahoma Agrinet and the Radio Oklahoma Network. More recently he has focused his career endeavors exclusively on advertising sales and has accumulated nearly 15 years of radio, cable and television sale experience. Beams now lives in Yukon with wife Amy and children.
   
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John Alberts

John received his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in 1987. He completed law school at Oklahoma City University, College of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate in 1990. John has been the managing partner of Alberts & Associates since 2008.
As the former mayor and current attorney and city councilman, John Alberts continues to serve the community of Yukon as well as children with special needs across the State.

John and his wife Carla live in Yukon with their son John where they enjoy all outdoor activities and showing livestock. 

   
Meet Our Staff:
   
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Josh Hargis

Josh Hargis, M. ED. Special Education
BS, Agricultural Education, Animal Science
Program Director

Josh received his degrees in Agricultural Education and Animal Science from Oklahoma State University in 2003. After a decade of teaching high school Agriculture in a fully inclusive classroom, Josh will be receiving his M. Ed. in Special Education from the University of Central Oklahoma in December. Josh has worked with families across Oklahoma and Texas using animals to teach self-advocacy while shaping character and work ethic.

   
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Duane Howell

Duane Howell
LEND Fellow

Family Director / Community Outreach

Duane is an advocate for children with special healthcare needs and their families. As a parent of 4 children, 3 with a multitude of Neurological and Physical disabilities, Duane knows firsthand the added challenges of raising children with unique needs.  From a deep and rich family dynamic to his youth and family background, Duane utilizes his hands-on experience in all facets of social needs and advocacy as the Director of the Oklahoma State Fathers Network, Father’s Support Group and as a LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) Fellow.

   
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Matt Stacy

Matt Stacy, JD
Special Services and Legal Counsel

Matt is the founder and managing partner of Stacy Legal Group LLP, a
general practice law firm. He has a JD from University of Oklahoma, College
of Law, and MBA from University of Arizona with a concentration in
Entrepreneurship, and a B.S. in Finance from Oklahoma State University. His
professional experience includes positions in the automotive, insurance,
and medical industries.

Matt has been a member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard for over 15
years. Currently serving at the rank of Major, Matt is the head
intelligence officer for the 45th Infantry Brigade. His role in 45th had
taken him on deployments to Afghanistan (2003-2004), Iraq (2007-2008), and
back to Afghanistan in (2011-2012).

Matt lives in Bridge Creek, Oklahoma with his wife Kristin.

 
OUR HISTORY:
 

After a decade in the Agricultural Education classroom, I had a circumstance that left me scratching my head and left a student with a transformational learning experience that resulted in an unprecedented growth of self-concept, new abilities, and an assertive confidence.  It changed both of our lives…

Graham was a 14 year-old freshman.  Like others on the autism spectrum, Graham had very little social skills and communicating verbally was rare.  Graham needed direction and instruction in basic life skills.  Low standardized test scores, and other predictors schools use to determine a students capability for academic success, left Graham in a Special Education classroom the majority of his day.  For 7 out of 8 periods in the school day, Graham was around the same people.  His social encounters were static, and his interaction with other students was limited.   

When Graham was “mainstreamed” into my Animal Science class, I knew that for him to get the education he deserved, I would have to tailor the instruction and content to his specific needs.  Graham sat in the back of the class.  He would rarely speak or interact with peers, and it was extremely hard to motivate and maintain focus.   The class curriculum was not on the appropriate developmental level, creating frustration and feelings of failure.

The school farm was an outdoor learning facility that housed students 4-H and FFA projects.  One morning I took my animal science class out to evaluate the animals and discuss basic animal care.  I looked down the barn alley saw that Graham had become enamored with a little pig, and he had a LOT of questions about these unfamiliar creatures!  BINGO!  I found my way to get through and make connections and I began to sit back and observe the human-animal interaction.  The pig didn't’t judge him for being different.  The pig greeted him at the pen and was excited to see him.  And Graham didn’t want to leave the pig.

I ended up making a deal with Graham that if he wasn’t tardy to his next class, I would talk to his parents about getting him a show pig.  To be completely honest, I said that just to get him to class…. but he reminded me of our deal, daily, until I was able to get ahold of his mother.  I explained that Graham had taken an interest and really seemed to come out of his shell.  I raised pigs at the time and asked if it would be okay to give him one, assuring her that I would be there to help through the entire feeding process and caring for the project.  With a little hesitation she finally agreed.

I decided I wasn’t going to treat this as a traditional show project.  I set a few goals and objectives that were individualized and very specific to his needs. For instance: Graham wouldn’t brush his own hair; but Graham would brush a pig's hair.  So I would parallel the things he was willing to do with his animal, to the life skill that corresponded to the goals and objectives stated.  Goals could be anything from understanding the importance of drinking water, for humans and pigs alike, to the value of having a clean pen/bedroom.   Graham was essentially using his livestock project for practicing the same skills being taught in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech Therapy.  All of this was being done while simultaneously building the malleable character traits that are needed in a responsible employee to ensure a higher quality of life.

About two months into the project, my phone rang.  Graham's mother was on the other end asking, “Have you seen Graham today?  He brushed his hair!!!”  It was the first of many positives to come.  Out of the hundreds of kids I've helped with a livestock project, Graham was unequivocally the best caretaker.  His attention to detail and ability to follow instructions were traits I knew could be an asset for him in the future.  We continued to add to our goals over the next few months and continued seeing dramatic changes.

At the county show Graham saw all of his time and effort come to fruition.  In front of a giant audience, Graham was named grand champion, beating hundreds of his typically developing peers.  With teary eyes, his father said “Josh, I never thought I would see my son compete in anything at all, let alone win anything.”  I can't tell you how much those words moved me. 

The next few weeks blew my mind.  The boost of self-confidence resulted in speaking in class, assertive behaviors, increased self-awareness, and the transformation of a young man.  Graham had new friends.  Graham had new strategies to communicate with his new friends.  Graham was dependable.  Graham showed everyone that he could be given a task and excel at doing it.  Graham found himself and realized he had a lot to offer the world.

Graham’s parent noticed the changes too.  I was asked if I would work with another family they knew from therapy.  After meeting with the child and his family we started their project and had extremely similar results.  I was sold.  The power of livestock shows, and everything they entail, not only changes the individual with a disability, it changes the entire family dynamic.

I decided to do some research, went to Graduate School, and recruited people with the same passion I have.  AgVocates was established through a collaborative effort of Agricultural Education Teachers, Special Education Teachers, livestock industry professionals, and community leaders.  We don’t think we can change a child’s life….we know we can.  This program works.

-Josh Hargis