New FCCLA organization aims to build leadership in youth

The 21st century ushered in a new organization at Hillsboro High School: Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

FCCLA officially started at the beginning of the school year and replaces an older group called Kayettes.

The new organization encourages boys and girls in grades nine through 12 to learn how to become leaders and effectively deal with personal, family, work and social issues through family and consumer science education.

“We had Kayettes previously, which was an all-female organization, and that’s one of the reasons we changed,” said Karen Call, family and consumer science teacher and FCCLA sponsor at HHS.

“FCCLA is the only leadership organization whose focus is on family consumer-science education and the family, (whereas) Kayettes was a student-service organization,” she said.

The plan was to introduce an organization that was complementary to family-consumer science, formerly called home economics, Call said.

Students must either be enrolled in family consumer-science class or have completed the class to be eligible to join FCCLA.

“Since we don’t offer family consumer-science classes in the middle school, the first opportunity they really have to be members is as freshmen,” Call said.

Freshmen can enroll in consumer science in the second semester and join FCCLA, or they may join first semester if enrolled in technology based living, another course taught by Call.

Officers elected last spring are Julie Wall, president; Casey Reese, vice president; Jennifer Walker, secretary/treasurer; Robyn Penner, senior representative; Jessica Boese, junior representative; and Allison Kunkel, sophomore representative.

Enrollment is 26 students. They meet with Call during learning support time from 11:30 a.m. to noon once a month.

“We’re needing to meet more, but right now we’re just taking baby steps” because it’s such a new organization for them, Call said.

Enrollment costs $7 per year to cover national organization dues, but will be raised to $10 next year to cover local and district as well as national fees.

But fund-raising events such as the upcoming Throwback Dance might help defray those costs, Call said.

Instead of this year’s Snowflake Dance, the students are hoping to substitute the Throwback Dance Jan. 11 with participating students dressed in decade costumes reminiscent of eras, like the ’20s or ’30s.

“It’s a money-making event, and the money will go toward FCCLA projects and being able to participate in district and state events,” Call said. “So it will go back to the students.”

In September, Wall and Kunkel went with Call to a leadership conference in Hesston.

“I don’t have the option of sending students without a sponsor at FCCLA events, which is really neat and unique from a lot of other organizations,” Call said. “FCCLA encourages advisers to participate and be there in person to advise and guide the students at these events.”

Nineteen HHS students attended a one-day convention in McPherson in late October.

One highlight of the event was the speech given by the superintendent of McPherson schools, Call said.

“It was a motivational speech about leadership and how one person can make a difference. He set music to themes from Sept. 11,” she said. “In fact, the kids basically didn’t say anything about it afterward, and I think it was because it was so powerful that they didn’t know what to say.”

The students will have an opportunity to attend a district convention in Newton in February. The local FCCLA plans to send at least six students to observe the activities, including the Students Taking Action with Recognition events.

STAR events are competitions in which members are recognized for proficiency and achievement in chapter and individual projects, leadership skills and occupational preparation.

In the future, local members will have the opportunity to compete in the STAR events by completing projects in applied technology, career investigation, interpersonal communication and a focus on children.

Students in the future will be able to participate at different levels of achievement in FCCLA.

“I think that’s what’s neat about this organization,” Call said. “There’s not only opportunities at the local level, but if they work there’s recognition at the district, state and national level and opportunities to serve as officers at each of those levels, too.”

One local member, sophomore Danielle Johnson, brings previous FCCLA experience to the new organization at HHS.

Johnson was an FCCLA member in middle school in Missouri, and she’s been a resource for HHS because she’s been in the organization, Call said.

“She still communicates with her sponsor back in Missouri and shares ideas with us,” Call said.

New members will be recruited after Christmas.

“We give the kids in (second semester) technology-based living the opportunity to join in January and become FCCLA members because it wasn’t their fault they couldn’t take technology based living the first semester,” she said.

“I could see us going to 30 kids at that time, and I can see as we get more active that we may meet more than once a month.”

Self-confidence, leadership skills and teaching skills are among Call’s goals for her students in FCCLA, she said.

“I just want the kids to find something that develops their self-confidence to go out and pursue their interests,” Call said.

“Sometimes it’s not necessarily being the president of an organization that shows leadership skills, but maybe it’s teaching children about nutrition or about seat-belt safety.”

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