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Oklahoma Youth Expo celebrates tradition, helps family

The Prague community has embraced two girls who lost their parents just days before the Oklahoma Youth Expo.
By Nasreen Iqbal, Staff Writer Published: March 19, 2014

In an arena filled with young people honoring those who have paved the way before them, Emily Cooper, 16, of Prague, showcased her animals at the Oklahoma Youth Expo just days after losing her parents.

Emily Cooper and her sister, Hallie Cooper, 11, lost their mother, Crystal Cooper, to an illness on March 4. Their father, John D. Cooper, died March 5 in a car accident.

“It’s unreal how much support they’ve gotten from FFA chapters across the state,” said Wendy Rich, agriculture teacher at Prague High School.

Other supporters have included ranches, businesses and families from across the state.

Rich and fellow agriculture teacher, Tanner Thompson, have been active in organizing fundraisers for the sisters through social media websites.

Emily Cooper, who raises sheep and goats, exhibited in a county show on the afternoon of her mother’s death and scored highest in her category.

“A lot of this is about her continuing with what her parents started,” Rich said.

Emily Cooper is among 14,000 entrants at this year’s expo at State Fair Park, Executive Director Tyler Norvell said. At least one student from each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties will participate.

What began nearly a century ago as a way for farmers to gather and discuss farm production techniques has grown over the years into a family tradition and way of life from which students learn vital life skills.

“We keep it going because it fuels our state’s agricultural industry, and it gives these kids life skills they can’t get elsewhere,” Norvell said. Among those skills are self-discipline, responsibility, integrity and money management.

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