Special rodeo is a special place for Katy ISD life skills students

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 2/16/22

Ask Joe Bochat, Katy ISD FFA special rodeo organizer, how long the rodeo has been going on, and he cannot give a precise answer. He figures it’s been over 10 years now.

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Special rodeo is a special place for Katy ISD life skills students

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Ask Joe Bochat, Katy ISD FFA special rodeo organizer, how long the rodeo has been going on, and he cannot give a precise answer. He figures it’s been over 10 years now.

“I cannot remember for the life of me when we began,” Bochat said.

The rodeo, designed for Katy special needs, or life skills, students, is a big part of the Katy ISD FFA Livestock Show. Bochat said in all its years, only twice did the show fail to go on. One year there were scheduling issues, Last year, the pandemic compelled the cancellation of the show.

The special rodeo was on again Wednesday. Life skills students petted livestock and rode a camel and horses. Some even rode a mechanical bull. After the rodeo, they enjoyed a luncheon featuring hamburgers and hotdogs.

While Bochat is the creator and organizer of the special rodeo in Katy, he said it was not an original idea. He began his career in Pensacola, Fla., where he saw a special rodeo. He said it served as a moneymaker for that local FFA. He said he later saw a special rodeo in Magnolia.

When Bochat joined Seven Lakes High School when it opened in 2005, he decided Katy should have a special rodeo of its own.

“I ripped it off,” he said.

At first, students at Mayde Creek and Seven Lakes high schools took part in the special rodeo. Today, he said, students from all Katy ISD high schools take part.

Every year, Bochat said, a teacher will come to him to talk about a particular life skills student. They are at the special rodeo but do not want to take part or be touched, he said. But then they see their classmates pet the livestock, or ride the camel, and things change.

“It triggers them, and they want to be a part of it," Bochat said.

To see the smiles, he said, is they reason they do it.

“It’s a feel-good thing, you know," Bochat said.

And while it is rewarding to watch life skills students ride horses, pet livestock and take part, Bochat said there was something even bigger going on.

“The biggest thing is for the kids to be together,” Bochat said. “They want to be a part of it. Our FFA kids look forward to this because it’s a big deal for them. It makes a bigger impact on the FFA kids than the special needs kids.”

This year’s show had about 150 life skills students, a scaling back from more than 500 such students two years ago. Bochat said the decision to scale back to makes things more manageable.

The number of student volunteers has grown over the years. Today, two students from each of the Katy ISD high schools serve on a planning committee. Other students from the respective school FFA programs also take part. They hold the livestock for the life skills students to pet and help out altogether.

The special rodeo also has sponsors. Bochat thanked the Rotary Club of Katy, Westside Chevrolet for their support.

The Katy Rodeo is a separate entity from the livestock show. But the rodeo performances coincide with the livestock show. Rodeo proceeds benefit the Katy ISD FFA programs.

The event takes approximately three months of hard work to organize. Bochat said the success of the event inspires him to come back and organize it again the next year.

“Putting this thing on every year is stressful,” Bochat said. “But the community supports our kids so much. I felt like our kids needed an opportunity to give back to the community.”

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