GRAHAM, NC (WGHP) — When they pulled into the Southern Alamance High School parking lot, the members of the school’s FFA competition teams found people lined up cheering for them.
They had just returned from the national FFA competition in Indianapolis, Indiana with two national Team Titles, one runner-up, and an individual champion.
Nick Anders, one of the Southern Alamance FFA advisors said the accomplishment was ” huge” for the team. He says it all started at last year’s competition when the team didn’t perform as well as they expected.
According to Anders, “We were all upset and we’re standing in the street in Indy, tears in our eyes, felt bad. And I said, remember that feeling. I said when you get back and you want to change that next year we’ll change it.”
And so they did! The students started getting ready for this year’s competition last year putting in long hours before and after school and on the weekends too.
Austin Drake was the Advisor for the Southern Alamance Forestry team. He said, “It took a big group effort and I think that’s the thing I’m proud of the most. With, not just the forestry team, but seeing all 12 of them young people. If they can put the effort into that, they can be successful with anything they want to do in life.”
Southern has a history of competing well. The walls of the FFA room are lined with banners and pictures of past National Champions. That in itself is a good motivator.
For Paicey Cameron, who competed in Floriculture, it was personal.
“To me, it’s really special because for the longest time looking up on that wall and seeing all those pictures,” she said. “I always wanted to be up there, and I guess it’s just sometimes it still doesn’t feel real though. Like I’m going to be up there that I did it and I made it.”
Brandon Pasour was on the Nursery Landscape team. He said, “I called my brother because he done it too. And he told me if I didn’t do well, I wasn’t allowed to come home. I had to bag groceries up there! So, I called him. I told him he said you can come home now. “
Shea Kirkpatrick knows this is big for the entire team. “It’s going to be really cool to see our pictures and just be a part of Southern Alamance FFA Forever,” she said.
This group will be different though. Never in the school’s history have they had two National Championships in one year.
According to Anders, “There’s only a few schools that’s ever won. Both of those contests at one time. Eastern Randolph and Chatham Central. So, we joined the ranks of those two great programs. And I’m pretty sure there’s only three ever done that. And then for our forestry team to finish national runner-up. No North Carolina team has ever finished that well in that contest. So that’s pretty awesome.”
For the runner-up forestry team, they are already getting ready for next year.
According to team member Rylee Senecal, “I want to win that national champion next year.”
The students say all of this changes them.
“I started being a part of FFA when I was a freshman, but that was during COVID, so I wasn’t actually on site,” said Cameron. “But then once I started coming. I became an officer. I’m now President and who I was then is completely different than who I am now. I would never be sitting in this interview if you had talked to me when I was a freshman. That’s because of FFA. Because of all the leadership events I’ve been to and all of the people I’ve met, and the connections I’ve made. it’s just been crazy how much I’ve changed. And the person I’ve become and I have FFA to thank for a lot of that.”