By Josette Keelor
The Signal Knob Middle School chapter of the Future Farmers of America has reached the top again.
For the second year in a row, the club was selected top middle school FFA chapter in Virginia at the Virginia FFA Convention at Virginia Tech, June 23-26.
The Signal Knob chapter also earned top overall chapter of all middle and high schools in the northern area of Virginia, said middle school FFA adviser Jaclyn Roller.
"It's the most competitive area in Virginia," Roller said.
Last year in June, Signal Knob won best chapter in Virginia of all middle and high schools, and in November won best middle school chapter in the country at the FFA Convention & Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.
After this year's 123 chapter members saw what last year's group got to do, Roller said, "They really wanted the same thing this year."
The chapter also brought home various other awards, including the northern area winner in chapter development and in community development, and the state winner in community development.
"That was huge," Roller said of the state award. One of the club's big passions is community service, and "I try to really, really instill that in our students."
With almost 500,000 members in more than 7,200 chapters nationwide, FFA is the largest youth organization in the country.
Shenandoah County students excelled at this year's state convention. Central High School in Woodstock swept the state star award category for the first time and Stonewall Jackson High School alumnus Brittany Bowman of Mount Jackson was elected secretary in the state FFA office.
Roller attributes the county's recent successes to extraordinary community and school support for FFA students.
"It's not like this everywhere," she said. "How thankful we are to have what we have in the community."
Signal Knob sees a big turnout at its Veteran's Day breakfast each year and this summer also plans to attend part of the National Veteran's Wheelchair Games in Philadelphia on Aug. 14-16, when they will help lead games in table tennis, archery and power soccer with wheelchairs.
At the state convention, Signal Knob also earned the gold superior chapter rating, the gold public relations award winner, the 100 percent membership award and gold national chapter award.
Teams in individual categories won for small animal care, food and fiber, agriscience, mechanics, Quiz Bowl and plant science, and member Tiffany Heishman earned a gold rating in the Agriscience Fair Career Development Event, gaining advancement to the national selection process.
Jacob Knapp, 14, earned a gold rating on the food and fiber team and on the agriscience mechanics team, and said he plans to run for state office eventually.
Winning best middle school again "felt like a huge payoff for all of us," he said.
The chapter is still waiting on rankings in individual categories and will find out in August if it ranked among Virginia's top five middle school chapters, Roller said.
"We'll go to nationals regardless," she said. "We're very fortunate."
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org