Cumberland Valley High School senior Anna Pauletta said she was “shocked” when finishing first in the nation at the 89th national FFA convention on Oct. 22 in Indianapolis.
“Pennsylvania doesn’t usually win the nationals. The bigger states like California and Texas usually win,” said Pauletta, 17, who also earned a gold individual rating in the event’s Environmental and Natural Resources competition.
Harry Campbell, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania, doesn’t appear shocked by Pauletta’s success, however. Pauletta, daughter of Eileen Collins and Robert Pauletta, both of Silver Spring Township, also is president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s PA Leadership Council.
“Anna’s wealth of knowledge at such an early age, and her dedication to water quality issues and the success of clean water projects are extraordinary,” Campbell said. “Her knowledge of the environment and enthusiasm for learning is matched only by the care and compassion she has for the animals she encounters. We are proud of Anna.”
Pauletta is quick to credit all of the members of CV’s FFA Environmental and Natural Resources Team, who together placed 15th in team competition at the national event. Other winning team members include senior Abby Klinger and juniors Galen Witmer and Chesapeake Bay Foundation PA’s Leadership Council secretary Mallory Taramelli-Dickinson. They were coached at the event by CV agriculture and wildlife biology teacher Jessica Weyer.
“From the beginning, you could see Anna’s enthusiasm, willingness to learn and passion to succeed,” CV agricultural sciences teacher and FFA adviser Darla Romberger said. “Once she figured that environmental was her thing, she latched on to it and did everything in her power to elevate herself to the top of the competition.”
Romberger is no stranger to success, either. She was just named the Outstanding Young Member of the National Association of Agriculture Educators and will travel to Las Vegas in November to accept the prize at the organization’s annual convention. The award is given to a third-to-fifth year agriculture teacher.
“I was very humbled to be selected for this award by my peers. I don’t know who nominated me, but it was another agriculture teacher,” said Romberger, of Schuykill County.
Romberger started teaching at Cumberland Valley in 2013 after earning a B.S. in animal science from Delaware Valley University and teacher certification from Penn State University. She is working on obtaining a master’s degree from Penn State.
“I was in Anna’s shoes eight years ago. My teacher at Tri-Valley High School (in Schuylkill County) was my mentor,” Romberger said. “Teaching agricultural is very diverse. Every day is very different. I love the content of teaching. I love animals, I grew up with animals. People need animals to survive. (Agricultural science) is practical, it makes sense, people need to know about it.”
Not surprisingly, Pauletta plans to major in environmental science or agricultural education in college. She believes that agriculture is “an underrated industry” and that it’s “really important for people to know where their food comes from.” This year’s assigned issue at the national FFA competition was dams and whether to keep reservoirs in place.
“Lots of people think about agriculture as just being all about cows and pigs. Actually, it’s an industry that’s been growing for some time. It’s about finding new ways to grow food. It’s grown into a more scientific field and it doesn’t get the credit that it deserves,” Pauletta said.