MONTEREY — The gym was packed on Saturday evening as students, faculty, parents, and community members gathered at Highland County Public Schools to celebrate Future Farmers of America students and their accomplishments.

Faculty sponsor Steve Heavner said there are 52 students in the FFA club this school year. “We’ve had a pretty good year,” he said.
Scott Wells, who volunteers with the FFA chapter, praised Heavner’s work with the students. “Steve has a vision for these kids,” he said. “The kids are like, ‘I can’t do that,’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, you can, and you will, and we’ll help you.’”
Wells said the skills students learn are vital. “If you’re going to stay on here and work the farm, you’re going to have to work stronger and harder than Granddad did,” he said.
The FFA always looks for other volunteers to share their skills with the students. “It’s not just for staying on the farm. There’s so much these kids can do,” Wells said.
Carly Thomas, who graduated from HHS last year, was the first guest speaker. She currently serves as the Virginia FFA treasurer and is happy to be home in Highland. “I believe FFA is not the organization it is without community support,” she said. “Thank you all for all you do to support FFA and agriculture in our school.”
Thomas spoke about how the Highland community at large helped her growing up.
“I have learned the value of each and every person around us,” she said. “Community is a powerful tool.”
Fellow state officer Katie Powell spoke next, with words of praise for Highland County after making several visits here with the Thomas family. “This county and FFA chapter have truly become a second home to me,” she said.
Mike Hilbert spoke about his work with FFA and his history with the organization as a student. Hilbert joined FFA when he was in the eighth grade.
“All my leadership skills come from FFA,” said Hilbert, who has managed Rockingham Cooperative for decades.
He proudly showed off his royal blue FFA jacket, earned in 1976, but noted it has mysteriously shrunk over the years. The jacket might not fit anymore, but the organization still does. Hilbert said he was proud to work with the Highland FFA students. “This is a great bunch of youth,” he said.
Officers elected for next year are: President, Mary Anne Rogers; vice president, Eli Moore; secretary, Autumn Warner; treasurer, Hannah Meyerhoeffer; reporter, Sarah Liller; sentinel, John Wagner; historian, Ava Chestnut; and chaplain, Evan Kimble.
The following awards were acknowledged at the banquet:
• Career Development Awards in Agricultural Sales went to Colton Williams, Erin Brendel, Cayden Roberson, and Ethan Moore.
• Junior and Senior Prepared Speech awards went to Sarah Liller and Carly Thomas.
• An Extemporaneous Speaking award went to Mary Anne Rogers.
• Creed Speaking awards went to Juliet Scott and Brooklyn Bussard.
• Talent awards went to Cayden Roberson and Erin Brendel.
• Junior and Senior Agricultural Mechanics awards went to Mary Anne Rogers, Hunter Baldwin, Kristina Neil, Matthew Lambert, Alex Smith, Wyatt Cunningham, and Harley Cunningham.
• Junior and Senior Poultry Judging awards went to Sarah Liller, Brooklyn Bussard, Lauren Mason, Kristina Neil, Juilet Scott, Brenna Baldwin, Wyatt Cunningham, Harley Cunningham, Erin Brendel, and Autumn Warner.
• Livestock Judging awards went to Eli Moore, John Wagner, Evan Kimble, and Mary Anne Rogers.
• Forestry Field Day awards went to Hunter Baldwin, Carson Alt, James VanReenen, Joe DeAscentis, Owen Honaker, Kristina Neil, Brooklyn Bussard, Colton Williams, Ethan Moore, Matthew Lambert, John Wagner, Eli Moore, and Mary Anne Rogers.
• Tractor Troubleshooting awards went to Colton Williams and Ethan Moore.
• The Lawnmower Driving was won by Dewey Moyers.
• Cattle Working was won by Colton Williams, Ethan Moore, Mary Anne Rogers, Eli Moore, John Wagner, and Evan Kimble.
• Small Engine Repair awards went to Hunter Baldwin and Matthew Lambert.
The following students earned FFA degrees:
• Discovery Degrees were earned by Brooklyn Bussard, Mikhail Franklin, Addison Lockridge, Lauren Mason, Steven Rogers, Kristina Neil, Zeda Townsend, Levi Warner, Case Alt, Abbey Cabral, Amelia Good, Hensley Neil, Daisy Moyers, Juliett Scott, Makynley Smith, Brooke Williams, Sarah Liller, and James VanReenen.
• Greenhand Degrees were earned by Ava Chestnut, Hunter Baldwin, and Joshua Kinser.
• The Chapter Degree was earned by John Wagner, Evan Kimble, and Eli Moore.
• The State Degree was earned by Erin Brendel, Carly Thomas, and Cayden Roberson.
• The American Degree was earned by Daniel Judy.