12 members on state CDE championship teams, earn trips to compete in nationals, 1 going to Big E; Sowers elected to state office

James River High School FFA Chapter members at the State FFA Convention (from left): front, Olivia Gilliam, Mikayla Fay, Sarah
Harris, Madeline Cummings, Tyller Roney, Skyler Camper, Bailey Marshall; back, Matt Martin, Jacob Fowler, Mason Sowers,
Daniel Holter, Jeff Bower and Jarrod Hix.
James River High School FFA members show off the hardware they brought home after their
performance at the state FFA Convention. From left are: front, Madeline Cummings, Olivia Gilliam,
Mikayla Fay, Skyler Camper, Sarah Harris, Tyller Roney; back, Daniel Holter, Matt Martin, Jacob
Fowler, Bailey Marshall, Jarrod Hix, Mason Sowers and Jeff Bower.

The James River High School FFA Chapter experienced the Virginia FFA State Convention of a lifetime June 23-26, advisor Zachary Wakeman said.

Fourteen chapter members participated in Leadership and Career Development Events (CDE) during convention week at Virginia Tech and 12 of those members earned state championships and will move on to represent the Virginia FFA Association by competing in their respective Career Development Events during the National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Ind. this October.

One member also qualified to represent the Virginia FFA Association at the Eastern State Exposition (Big E) in Springfield, Mass. in September.

There was more, too.

Three JRHS students were named State FFA Proficiency Award winners, four chapter members received their State FFA Degree, and member Mason Sowers was the first JRHS chapter member elected to a state office. He will serve as secretary.

Then, during the final session of convention, James River FFA was named the No. 1 FFA chapter in Virginia through the National Chapter Award application process. This is the first time the chapter has been named the top FFA program in Virginia.

The chapter’s National Chapter Award application will now move on to be evaluated at the national level later this summer.

The JRHS teams that placed first in their state events were:

  • Poultry Evaluation with team members Madeline Cummings, Davis Fenster, Bailey Marshall and Mason Sowers
  • Environmental and Natural Resources with team members Jeff Bower, Skyler Camper, Jarrod Hix and Daniel Holter
  • Livestock Evaluation with team members Mikayla Fay, Olivia Gilliam, Sarah Harris and Tyller Roney. Sarah Harris placed first individually and was also named the individual state champion.
  • Computer Applications with Madeline Cummings.
  • FFA Talent with Daniel Holter and Bailey Marshall performing

The 12 James River FFA members who will move on to represent the Virginia FFA Association by competing in their respective Career Development Events during the National FFA Convention and Expo are on the Poultry Evaluation, Environmental and Natural Resources, and Livestock Evaluation teams.

This will be James River’s largest delegation to the National FFA Career and Expo in the chapter’s history, Wakeman said.

“While these five state championships were more of a blessing than our chapter ever dreamed was possible, the history making didn’t stop there,” Wakeman added.

After a week of intense interviews, Mason Sowers was elected as the 2017-2018 Virginia FFA Association State Secretary.

He will now defer his freshman year of college in order to represent the Virginia FFA Association as one of six state officers. Throughout this year, Sowers will travel across the Commonwealth to facilitate leadership development workshops and speak to middle and high school students.

He will also meet with FFA stakeholders, legislatures and will assist in organizing state leadership conferences and the annual Virginia FFA State Convention.

Additionally, Sowers will have the opportunity to travel internationally to learn more about agriculture on a global scale and he will represent Virginia’s nearly 9,000 FFA members as a delegate at the National FFA Convention and Expo.

Sowers becomes the James River FFA Chapter’s first student elected as a Virginia FFA State Officer since the chapter was formed in 1959.

The three students who were named State FFA Proficiency Awards were recognized for being the top students in the state in their Supervised Agricultural Experience award areas that they have been working to grow and keep accurate records on since becoming FFA members.

State winners were Eli Stevens in the area of Beef Production Placement, Mason Sowers in the area of Vegetable Production and Davis Fenster in the area of Poultry Production.

Each winner received $250 for their achievement and their applications will now move on to be evaluated at the national level later this summer.

James River FFA also had four students receive their State FFA Degree at convention, the highest honor a state FFA association can bestow to a member. Receiving their state degrees were Madeline Cummings, Davis Fenster, Eli Stevens and Taylore Sydnor.

Bailey Marshall made it to the final round and placed second in the state Prepared Speaking Leadership Development Event. She will now represent the Virginia FFA Association at the Eastern State Exposition (Big E).

Also, Jacob Fowler and Matt Martin placed 14th in the junior Agricultural Mechanics CDE. Individually, Matt placed 11th.

“Our chapter would like to thank the countless parents and community supporters who helped to prepare our students for state convention,” Wakeman said. “Without our supporters, these accolades would never be possible.”

To learn more about the James River FFA Chapter or to continue following the accomplishments of its members, follow on social media or check out the chapter website at jrffa.theaet.com. If you would like to contribute to the program, email the chapter at jrffa@bcps.k12.va.us.