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Meet Natasha Baranko: South Heart senior looks beyond the field

Natasha Baranko is a senior at South Heart. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Natasha Baranko and her horse Rio at the horse show in Dickinson. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

South Heart senior Natasha Baranko's favorite school organization is FFA, what used to be known as Future Farmers of America, but not because she plans to be a farmer. Her family lives on a ranch, so agriculture is a big part of her life, but like her family, she's exploring career options off the field.

"It's not just for farmers. It could be for city kids, too. It's a leadership organization. You participate in different activities, different events. ... I think FFA's my favorite because I'm able to travel and meet new people," she said. "It's basically taught me the most out of all of those activities. I learned how to speak in front of people."

They went to Minnesota last year for a horse judging competition and to Ohio and Indiana this year for the national horse-judging championship.

"On the road to nationals we were able to see different things, too," she said. "It's not like we drove straight there. We stopped along the way to a cranberry farm. It was really cool."

The organization offers a lot of different activities. She chose horse judging because it allows her to use what she already knows.

"I live on a ranch, and we have horses, so I figured that that's probably the contest I'd know the most in, that I have some experience in," she said. "I know what to look for when picking a horse out."

She's done other events with the organization, too, including hosting a biannual blood drive at the school and carnival games before donkey basketball.

She's also been in the Silver Spurs 4-H Club, in which she'd held various leadership positions.

"I've learned a lot from (4-H) too," she said. "I participate in the horse show every year, which is in Dickinson during the summer. That's my favorite time of the year."

In 4-H, she also makes projects, including a plasma cut-out of a deer head that won third place in the state fair.

Family interest got her involved in 4-H about 10 years ago, and she's been in it since.

"My older sister Lauren was involved when she was younger, like my age," she said. "She wanted us to be involved cause she figured it would be good for us. My mom as well. She's a leader, too, so she figured it would be good for us to be involved."

Natasha's interests extend beyond agriculture. She's the school council's secretary, a volleyball player and a clarinet player in the school's band. She's also in South Heart's FBLA, Future Business Leaders of America. She plays the organ for her church and is even teaching a younger church member to play.

Like her parents, Natasha plans to explore careers outside of agriculture. Her father is a Billings County foreman; her mother, a St. Alexius ICU nurse. She's thinking about going to a state university for accounting.

"I just took Accounting I last semester and I just thought I'd give it a try, and I really liked it," she said. "I like to work with numbers, and I feel like I'm really organized, so I was like maybe accounting would be a career for me."

She isn't sure that's what she wants to do, but she's in Accounting II this semester and, though she finds it challenging, still likes it.

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