Washington, D.C. (June 26, 2017) -- After three days of competitions against Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps Cadets from across the world, two Army JROTC teams were named the victors in their respective categories during the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl (JLAB), which was held on the campus of The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., June 24-26.

JLAB brings together hundreds of JROTC students to participate in challenging leadership activities and the largest academic bowl in the country. Out of the 1,498 Army JROTC Academic teams that competed from around the world, only 24 teams earned top scores to advance to the National Academic Bowl competition. Out of the 1,378 U.S. Army JROTC Leadership teams that competed from around the world, only 40 teams earned top scores to advance to the National Leadership Bowl competition.

The Army JROTC team from Francis Lewis High School, Fresh Meadows, N.Y., was named the winner of the Leadership portion of JLAB, and the team Cocoa Beach High School, Cocoa Beach, Fla., took the top spot for the Army in Academics.

Nicolena Weaver, team captain for the Cocoa Beach High School Academic Team, said the teachers at her school prepared the team well, but it was still an unexpected surprise to win Army-wide.

"We really didn't expect it, so it's been incredible and I'm very proud of my team," she said. "I think the biggest thing that helped us is finding a team that works well together. You also need to be willing to give up some things you think you are confident at to allow other people's strengths to show."

Terry Wilfong, president of the College Options Foundation, which co-sponsors the event with Army JROTC, said JLAB is about much more than the weekend of competition.

"This is the culmination of a yearlong activity -- it starts with about 74,000 students to reach the 360 that come to D.C.," he explained. "Because this is so big, so fun and full of so many activities, we think this is the event, but the event is what they do all year. It's the afternoon study hall periods, meeting together at friends' houses on Sunday afternoons to study ACT and SAT prep. They are increasing their ACTs and SATs 12 to 15 percent -- that means scholarships and good colleges."

Wilfong said while the academic portion of the competition was similar to last year's, the leadership challenges were made a little more "challenging."

"We tried to put a little more emphasis on the hands-on portion of the leadership side, so we made the leadership reaction course a little more physical and a little more demanding. We put a little more brainwork into it and tried to select activities that require full participation from everyone on the team," he said.

Another change to JLAB this year was participation of JROTC's top three inaugural essay contest winners. Tiffany Bryant, from Lanier High School, Jackson, Mississippi, won first place and read a portion of her essay during the JLAB awards ceremony June 26.

While the essay contest is not a part of JLAB competition, having the winners at the D.C. event allowed them an opportunity to meet JROTC Cadets from across the globe and to learn more about one of America's most historic cities, said Preston Barlow, instructional systems specialist at JROTC.
Barlow said the essay contest allows Cadets to showcase their creativity while reinforcing JROTC values.

"The essay contest came about to give the Cadets an opportunity to practice their written communication skills. We provide them with a theme that is something related to JROTC -- that way they have a background knowledge on something they have already experienced and can write about what they know and their emotions," he said. "This year's theme was service to others, so they wrote about a particular service learning project they had participated on. It's a miniature introduction to college level writing that teaches them how to communicate their thoughts no matter what they do in the future."

As the weekend of competitions wrapped up, Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, commander of Fort Knox and U.S. Army Cadet Command, praised all of the Cadets who took part in JLAB.

"Congratulations for being in this room, it is testament to who you are and your abilities as young men and women across this nation. Each of you have a very good reason to be proud and rightfully so of that pride," he said during the awards ceremony. "One of the best parts of my job as commander is being able to get out and meet Cadets like you, almost daily. Each of you are incredibly talented and bright, and your performance here has given me hope for our nation's future. Our nation and our world need each of you to strive to meet your full potential. Speaking for my generation, we are counting on you, we need you - you are our future."

Members of the Cocoa Beach High School Academic Team were: John Stotz, Nicolena Weaver, Seth Netterstom and Jonathan Parent. The members of the Francis Lewis High School Leadership Team were: Mohammad Shazeb, Kelly Xiao, Alan Cao, and Tylon Guan.