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Helping MUSD students find their passion
William Burden shows off a Serama rooster during Thursdays Manteca Rotary meeting. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

William Burden is focused on his future.

And helping him is his passion for raising Serama chickens — the world’s smallest breed of chicken typically weighing less than 500 grams.

The Sierra High freshman can rattle off facts about Seramas and how to raise them thanks to absorbing all the knowledge he can from adult mentors in the field and any other source he can access.

It is why Manteca Unified encourages and supports a wide repertoire of extracurricular activities or programmed options such as JROTC, the school farm, after school sports, as well as clubs and such.

Burden — who plays football for the Timberwolves as well as in FFA and is a five-year member of 4H — was one of two students that spoke before the Manteca Rotary on Thursday during their meeting at Ernie’s Restaurant.

The presentation was designed to provide examples of how the district is working to engage all students in school and in their future.

District Superintendent Jason Messer referenced it as “how to build passing and relevance in our education system to increase rigor”.

“All children need mentors,” noted Roger Goatcher who serves as Manteca Unified Director of Student Services.

Goatcher said “being a mentor to a kid doesn’t necessarily require a commitment of a lot of time.”

“You may think I can’t mentor because algebra or what they are doing in science classes are way beyond you Goatcher said. “Sometimes it is just willing to listen . . . You don’t have to have the answers. You just have to be there for them.”

Goatcher said if youth can’t get guidance from responsible adults at home and in the community they will seek it out elsewhere.

“And those are probably not the sources of (guidance) you’d want a teen to have,” Goatcher said.

He added that the district’s 23,500 students are dealing with a wide array of things they have to struggle with from being foster children or among the homeless to having physical and mental challenges to other issues.

Messer noted Burden is a prime example of what can happen when a student can find his passion and how it spills over to the classroom and other aspects of their life.

Burden gave a power point presentation that noted he raises chickens, has a thirst for knowledge and plays football. He also raises market turkeys, clerks for Serama shows with a goal of becoming a youth judge, and likes fishing, hunting, and raising livestock.

His long range goal is to get a bachelor of science in environmental sciences aiming for a career as a game warden with the Department of Fish and Game.

Burden shared a Confucius quote that he said inspires him, “Chose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

As for the Serama chickens, Burden explained what judges look for at shows plus went into how he grooms and cares for them.

For example, he will add catfish food and corn to chicken scratch to enhance their feathers.

Serama chickens are big in Malaysia where they outnumber dogs and cats as pets.

Manteca Unified school farm is home to one of the nation’s largest Serama projects. The school farm hosts the largest Serama show in the western United States. Judges from other states often note how Serama raised by Manteca Unified students for the most part of superior to those raised by students elsewhere.

The birds can sell for $250 each.