That’s six gold medals in all.
Seniors Alex Hiebert and Tia Goertzen presented a project on realistic body image titled, “NoBody’s Perfect,” and achieved the highest award level in the senior division.
Winning highest honors in the junior division were a pair of freshman teams: Alicen Meysing and Page Hiebert with a project titled “Alice in Bullyland,” and Alyssa Booton and Anna Wiens with a project named “Backyard Barbecue Bash.”
Meysing and Page Hiebert’s project was in the “Focus on Children” competition while Booton and Wiens competed in “Life Event Planning.”
The 2013 conference was in Nashville, Tenn., July 7-11. The event was attended by more than 7,000 students from across the country.
Secrets for success
“The kids practice a lot,” she said. “They have to practice at least a few times with me, and then we do a dress rehearsal and their parents can come and watch.”
Bergin said the girls also learn from projects presented in previous years.
“They aren’t allowed to copy anything from a previous year, but they can see what was successful,” Bergin said.
“I keep the rubrics from year to year so (the students) can see that while it might be a completely different project, yellow on a white board didn’t really look very good (the previous year), or the judges made a comment about it. So they can avoid that color combination.”
National projects have their infancy already in fall.
Bergin said most projects include a five-step planning process: identifying a focus, setting a goal, forming a plan, presenting the project and then following up on the outcome.
“I really like the follow-up because it gets the kids to see what they could have done differently—especially the kids that don’t end up going on.
“I really like that model,” she added. “The kids kind of grumble about it a little, but it does work. The kids that are the most successful are the ones that stay dedicated throughout the whole year.
“You see that drive in them from the very beginning—that nationals is their goal. They want to get there, and this is the way to do that. So they work hard.”
To reach the national level, a project must earn gold first at the district level and then at the state level.
Once at nationals, students present their projects under challenging conditions.
“There’s a giant exhibit hall that has probably 50 to 80 tables set up in it, maybe 10 feet apart from each other,” Bergin said. “There’s three judges at every table, plus a timer and a room consultant, which is a person who tallies the scores.
“(Students) get called in from the hallway and there’s tons of kids presenting at the same time,” she added. “So I always tell my kids, you can’t worry about the other kids next to you. You have to be loud enough so your judges can hear you.
“It definitely takes some focus.”
As seniors, Alex Hiebert and Tia Goertzen had the benefit of experience. In fact, Hiebert was a gold-medal winner a year ago as an individual competitor.
The four freshmen presenters, though, were facing the challenge for the first time.
“It was actually really nerve-wracking at first—talking in front of people—and you knew the judges were talking about your speech,” Alicen Meysing said. “But it was really a good experience because it gave you practice for speaking and doing speeches in class.
“It was just really fun to do.”
The original project by Meysing and Page Hiebert played off the familiar children’s story, “Alice in Wonderland.”
“We wanted to talk to the children about how bad bullying could be,” Meysing said. “So we wanted to get them involved with a theme they would recognize. We chose Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts, and the relationship they kind of had—which was not exactly a good one.
“We dressed up in costumes and presented an anti-bullying workshop to the third-grade class,” she added. “We performed a little skit where we were both in our characters. Afterward, we told them how Alice eventually stood up to the Queen of Hearts, and how that can relate to their experiences with bullies.”
Presenting their project to judges carried its own set of challenges. At districts, a phone in the room began ringing in the middle of their presentation, according to Meysing.
“We weren’t sure what was happening,” she said with a laugh. “By the time we got to nationals, we were kind of used to the small space, so we were able to do it pretty easily.
“The only problem we ran into was that during the skit I’m supposed to hide somewhere. So I had to walk to the side of the board and act like I was hiding.”
What was the best advice Meysing received from her adviser and coach?
“Probably making eye contact with the judges, and making sure you’re talking well and have a good voice when you’re talking,” she said.
Selected as Goessel’s FCCLA president for the coming year, Meysing plans on taking on another project. This year, she may work with an individual project instead of a team project
“I kind of want do something again where you work with people and help solve problems, or impact the community in a good way,” she said. “You get to talk to people about how you did it and what happened when you did it.”
This past year, Goessel’s FCCLA chapter had 25 members—a little more than half the girls in the entire high school
What’s the draw?
“Probably just the whole learning experience, and the fact that it’s another thing you can do to be proactive for your future and everything,” Meysing said. “Also, you get to do really neat projects. And it actually takes you places. There’s a lot of places you can go doing projects through FCCLA.”