By Randy Arrington
LURAY, June 16 — In just 12 days, 21 local students will hop on a plane bound for San Diego, California to participate in the National STAR event for members of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) June 28 through July 4. This will mark the first time that some students will be live and in-person at the national conference after the 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 version was virtual.
“Not having it was really depressing,” said Page County High School senior Micah Howan during an interview in early May. Starting in sixth grade, this is now the seventh year that Howan has participated in FCCLA. “It was great having it again this spring…it felt like old memories going through those doors again.”
On April 1-3, the local FCCLA members traveled to the Virginia Beach Convention Center for the 2022 State Leadership and Recognition Conference. Luray High School students Jorgia Diaz and Bianka Waybright qualified for the national event after winning second in Food Innovations. It should be noted that this was both participant’s first time ever competing at the state conference as new FCCLA members. The Luray High School FCCLA chapter also received the “Bee’s Knees” Membership Award and ribbons for three FCCLA national programs.
Among the 21 students qualifying for a trip to San Diego, 15 are PCHS students and four from Page County Middle School.
At the state convention in April, PCHS senior Emma Sellers served as state president, while freshman Joey Miller served as vice president for membership for the entire 2021-22 school year. Miller will continue next year as vice president of parliamentary procedure. While nearly 1,000 FCCLA students across Virginia typically attended the state convention prior to the pandemic, about 600 attended in April. There are about 6,500 FCCLA members in the commonwealth. For her role as state president, Sellers earned a Gold Level Scholarship of $300.
During these STAR events — Students Taking Action for Recognition (STAR) — students give 10- to 15-minute presentations to a three-judge panel on community projects they have completed during the year. The program forces students to plan events from start to finish.
“Having to walk in front of judges and be prepared…it’s the nerves of competing,” Howan said of the club’s greatest challenge. “I used to be really introverted, but this helped give me the ability to speak to people. I wasn’t the kind of person who walked up to people and spoke to them, and now I talk to everyone.”
Fellow PCHS senior Mason Hilliard said that during his four years in FCCLA he has learned general life skills from lessons in Family Consumer Science, to health and safety, to competing in oral trivia through the Knowledge Bowl team.
“There’s so much we can do with FCCLA,” Hilliard said. “Other clubs name a specific form, but there are so many things you can do with FCCLA.”
Both the PCHS and PMS programs were named Platinum Outstanding Chapters during the state convention. In addition, PCHS earned the inaugural Connie Rhoton Outstanding Chapter Legacy Award, selected from all chapters who are recognized at the Platinum Level, and received a $1,000 award. The Panthers earned a second $1,000 award for being the National Families First national high school winner. They also received $500 for being the National Career Connection runner-up.
First place honors (and national qualifying) from the state convention went to:
- Ethan Lucas – FCCLA Chapter Website;
- Seth McCoy, Whitney Miner and Mady Murphy – Event Management;
- Kaylee Kite and Hannah Thomas – Promote and Publicize;
- Veronica Yorro and Makenna Parlett (PCMS) – Focus on Children.
Receiving second place (and also qualifying for national STAR Events competition):
- Manuel Coronel Cardoso and Sadie Rodriguez, Chapter Service Project;
- Storm Merica and Agelica Shifflett – Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation;
- Bekah Seals (PCMS) – Repurpose and Redesign.
Members of the LifeSmarts/FCCLA Knowledge Bowl Top 16 national qualifying team from PCHS include Emma Sellers, Mason Hilliard, Micah Howan, Abi McInturff and Victoria Groves.
The Spirit of Advising award, an honor bestowed to only one advisor from each state association, was presented to Bobbi Comer, who has been the FCCLA sponsor at PCHS for more than 30 years. The award recognizes “FCCLA advisers who consistently demonstrate excellence in modeling FCCLA character and integrity to ensure the success of their students within their classroom and career.”
Leigh Ann Pettit, PCHS principal and director of Career and Technical Education, and Tanya Miller, PCMS principal, received the Outstanding School Administrator award nominated by all PCPS chapters of FCCLA. The award recognizes “local school administrators who consistently promote and support the FCCLA programs in their schools or divisions.
Luray Middle School program, just in its third year, did not participate in the state convention this year, but hopes to next year. LMS was however awarded a trophy for Middle Level Milestone as a chapter, noting that membership must increase by 15 or more members to receive this ward.
Ginny Miller, the FCCLA sponsor at PCMS since 2009, started taking her son Joey to the national conference in San Diego at a young age.
“It was a fun time growing up,” Joey said in early May. “FCCLA is the largest student organization with a central focus on family.”
And the Millers have certainly made it a family affair. They will be traveling with 20 other students and chaperones to the Golden State in just under two weeks on yet another trip to the national FCCLA convention.
The group is still seeking donations to help with expenses for the trip (plane tickets, rooms, meals) — contact the schools for more information.