By Ryan Cornell
STRASBURG -- When outgoing FCCLA State President Laura Taylor, 16, handed off the reins to her successor, she didn't have to leave campus.
For the second consecutive year, Virginia's president of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization is a student at Strasburg High School.
The national student organization places family as its central focus and teaches skills in leadership, teamwork and communication.
At a state FCCLA conference in Virginia Beach last month, Strasburg junior Alexis Mathias, 16, was elected the state president and will serve until the conference next April. The state president preceding her, Taylor, another junior at Strasburg, has been nominated by Virginia as a candidate for national officer.
Strasburg FCCLA adviser and family and consumer sciences teacher Heather Hiserman said this is the first time they've ever had a national officer candidate and called the two consecutive presidents an "unusual accomplishment."
"I don't know how often this has ever happened [nationwide], but I'm sure it hasn't happened a lot," she said. "And we definitely think [Mathias] deserved it, but we were shocked by the whole thing."
As the president, Mathias will travel to FCCLA meetings throughout the year, visit schools around Virginia and plan the next state conference.
Mathias said she wants to become a teacher, and is considering entering the family and consumer sciences field.
"I think it prepares people for the life they're going to have," she said. "It's information they can use, and it's not something they're never going to get to apply."
"She's very intelligent and she's very level-headed," Hiserman said. "She's kind of a quiet leader, she's not going to be the loud, boisterous one yelling."
In addition to the representation in leadership, the high school is sending 10 students to the 2014 National FCCLA Leadership Conference in San Antonio this July.
Hiserman said it's the largest group she's ever taken in her 17 years of teaching at Strasburg.
"They set the bar high and I love that they're doing that, that they're trying really hard to win and be the best...and that's maybe something you don't always hear in teenagers these days," she said.
She added that most of her kids have been involved in FCCLA since joining the organization at Signal Knob. The Strasburg middle school, which she said offers a great "feeder program," is sending eight students to the national conference this summer.
The conference will last about a week, she said, and will have them competing against other schools, doing teamwork training as well as visiting the Alamo and Six Flags theme park.
Strasburg isn't the only town representing the valley in San Antonio. Six students from Central High School, three students from Skyline High School, one student from Warren County High School and one student from Warren County Middle School are also headed to the conference.
Warren County Middle School's FCCLA chapter will receive a $1,000 grant for a campaign that students organized earlier this year to recognize, report and reduce the potential for youth violence.
Lauren Fox, 13, a seventh grader at the school, said she's planning to run for state office next year.
"I've learned a lot of things and I really think taking it to the next level would be a great opportunity," she said. "And I think it's something that you have to be very active in and I enjoy it so I figured why not spend more time doing it and meeting new people."
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org