According to area advisers, students who participate in FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) have tremendous leadership opportunities. Having qualified at the regional competition Feb. 1 at Danebod Folk School in Tyler, a large number of those area students will participate in the 2012 State FCCLA conference from April 18-21 at the Double Tree hotel in Bloomington.
"FCCLA's tagline is that it's the ultimate leadership experience," said Tammy Borman, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teacher. "It gives kids a lot of opportunities to be leaders in different ways, in the school or in the community."
RTR had a large number of students qualify for the state competition in a variety of categories available. The delegation is advancing 29 individuals at the middle school level and 34 at the high school level.
"With the competition, students have a number of categories that they can choose to work in," Borman said. "It's very wide-open and kid-friendly. There's a number of areas they can relate to. A lot of them deal with issues of concern, issues that families can learn about and deal with."
FCCLA projects can be either individual or team events, such as duos, trios or up to eight, like the RTR parliamentary procedure teams.
"I have a junior and senior high parliamentary procedure team, where they learn correct parliamentary procedure and demonstrate an actual meeting," Borman said. "Our junior team went to nationals last year, so that was pretty cool. And, it's one of those life skills that they're going to use, whether it be on a church board, school board or township board down the road."
LeaAnne Bot, Minneota FACS teacher and FCCLA adviser, said that Minneota will be taking its largest number of competitors to this year's conference.
"About 30 kids advanced," Bot said. "That's about 75 percent of our membership. We have about 40 kids total in FCCLA. We're a growing organization, so we are very excited."
Last year, two seventh-graders - Allison Bot and Rachel Knutson - made history at Minneota, when they became the first team to qualify and compete at the national level. The duo traveled to Anaheim, Calif. to give its entrepreneurship presentation.
"It was an awesome experience," LeaAnne Bot said. "They got to see the national elections, where a Minnesota girl was voted in. We've got a chance to advance one or two groups to nationals again this year. That would be very exciting."
Bot especially appreciates that FCCLA is student-driven.
"The projects are ones the students come up with on their own," she said. "It might be something to meet a need of the school community, the town or teen groups. It's what internally motivated them. It tends to be issues or concerns that teens have."
A few Minneota students have developed business plans as part of an entrepreneur project. Other projects cover topics like anti-bullying, teens going through divorce and concussions.
"The community doesn't always know how much work the students have done or the impact they have, but it's amazing," Bot said. "The project areas then to be what is current across the country, like green or fitness projects. It's things that affect them. That's what's so fun about it."
Tracy Area High School student Kristen Andree initiated a "Dimes for Desi" project to help raise funds for TAHS seventh-grader Desirea Vazquez, who suffered a brain aneurysm on Dec. 20. Andree's efforts helped to raise more than $1,300. News of the project quickly traveled past the confines of the Tracy, Milroy and Balaton communities.
"It was an awesome project," Bot said. "It was so neat to have done something like that. And, it started out as a smaller project and it just blossomed."
Of the 16 Tracy Area High School students who competed at regionals in Tyler, 14 of them advanced to state under the direction of Tami Wee, TAHS FACS teacher and FCCLA adviser.
After researching and developing plans, students create their own project, corresponding with certain criteria.
"Most of them are presentation-based, where they do a project in the community and from there, they do a presentation about that and present their information to the judges," Borman said. "All the projects have a rubric, which is a scoring sheet that they have to meet criteria for."
As people judge the projects, Borman said, there are certain things that student have to have accomplished.
"It's very point-system based once they get to that point," she said. "They really know what their criteria is going to be. From there, they build and create and work.
"Some of the projects, are portfolio based, so like if they've selected a career project, they'll create a portfolio based on shadowing experience and career research.
While the area students will be competing for a trip to the national competition, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., in July, Borman said the fact that they've had to continue learning and contributing is the best part of the experience.
"The cool thing about it, is that for the kids who qualified, their learning continues," Borman said. "They now see a reason to improve even more. For some of them, they have aspirations to go to nationals. And, they may know that their project isn't going to quite get them there, but they're going to give it a good shot.
"They work hard for it and their learning continues. Their involvement in the community continues. That's a big element that's really important."