Teen says receiving national honor is bittersweet after losing both parents

19-year-old Mandy Little
19-year-old Mandy Little
Karen Lazarine with Mandy Little
Karen Lazarine with Mandy Little

By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

MARTINSVILLE, TX (KTRE) – Mandy Little grew up on a farm, with a passion for animals. This passion came with hours of hard work.

Now the Martinsville graduate is receiving the highest degree an FFA student can receive, the American Farmer's degree. She'll be recognized at the 2010 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 23rd.

"It's a huge honor," said Mandy. "Every week I was shearing lambs or goats and then on the weekends, Saturday mornings, I was getting up to go to a show."

Her success is not without pain. Mandy's father passed away three years ago from health complications. Her mother died three weeks ago in a car accident.

"He always had goals for kids and he knew that they could live up to something. And mom, she was just right along with him. She would give the shirt off her back for anyone," said Mandy.

Her mother's death caused her to re-think her goal of attending the national FFA Convention in Indiana.

"My aunt was like no, no, you have to do this for her and I was just like okay- I'm going to do it for her, then for dad, then for me."

Now a sophomore in college, Mandy is following in dad's footsteps, studying to become an Ag teacher.

"They were already proud of me going through high school. I was doing so good, making all these good grades. Now I'm going to A&M and I told them my whole life I was going to do that and now I'm doing it."

"Both of them are in heaven and both of them are rejoicing with her succeeding the way she is, it is just an answer to prayer," said Mandy's aunt, Karen Lazarine.

Mandy is hurting, but says she remembers her parents' advice and continues to move forward.

"Don't dwell on what has happened, you know, just keep going. I know that's what they would want for me to do, be strong and I want to be strong for them."

With the support of her family and community, Mandy knows she isn't alone.

The communities of Martinsville, Garrison, Center and Nacogdoches have joined together to fundraise for Mandy to help pay for her trip to Indiana.

Family and friends are also donating to Mandy's college fund. You can visit Austin Bank on North Street in Nacogdoches to make a donation.

There will also be an FFA booth at the Nacogdoches County fair next week, where you can donate to the Portacool raffle to help fund Mandy's trip to Indiana.

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