“It is family. It is community. It is career.”
These sentences encompass the mission and the work of the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America, as described by Janice Heavner, teacher and faculty advisor for the club at the Pendleton County Middle/High School.
For almost eight decades, FCCLA, formerly the Future Homemakers of America, has paved the way in preparing young women and men to serve as leaders in either the home or the workplace. It started in Chicago in 1945 with 29 students and quickly evolved into a national institution with, as its website describes, “a legacy of making a difference in families, careers, and communities across America.”
To serve as a member, students must take at least one course in the department of family and consumer sciences.
FCCLA is a club that emphasizes service from its members while providing the opportunity to learn from new experiences. As club member Elizabeth Gonshor explains, “you get to spend time with people that you normally don’t. You learn skills that you don’t get to learn anywhere else.” Heavner added that the club “provides kids an intercurricular program with opportunities for growth outside of the classroom.”
Gonshor added that the club also cooked ham and cheese sliders for a recent board of education meeting.
Lydia Heavner, another member, said that one of the top benefits of the club comes from developing leadership skills. She added that she also loves the trips, “but also during semester exams, we did bulletin boards around the school.” The bulletin board decorations all featured positive and encouraging messaging to reduce student stress during such an important time.
Almost every month that school is in session, FCCLA has a community service project. While this month’s focus lies on FCCLA Week, last month the students launched a pop tab drive for Ronald McDonald House. Next month will have a Dr. Seuss theme. Other months featured projects such as Operation Christmas Child, breast cancer awareness, and more.
May will feature a teacher appreciation project. Since 2015, FCCLA has cooked and served a lunch to teachers as a thank you. In recent years, the appreciation was extended to bus drivers who received breakfast as a thank you for their hard work. FCCLA students also created the “in a pinch bag” project. These bags contain toiletries and other essentials, such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap, and other items. Girls can receive makeup that mostly comes from donations of unneeded mail order cosmetics.
Students also worked in conjunction with the Communities in Schools programs on projects involving mental health. As Janice Heavner stated, “we help with monthly seminars. The one recently was on healthy relationships.” She added that the work helps “to create a community of support within the school.” This helps children who come from struggling families to find secure systems of support.
FCCLA especially helps to develop skills required in a serious career field of need in the area of education. Students have the opportunity to take classes and also gain experience in early childhood and middle school environments constructed within the school. Club member Paigelynn Long stated that “right now, we’re just learning classroom skills, especially how to interact with kids having trouble at home.” She added that “we’re helping other kids too,” saying that the FCCLA’s older students “made a lot of kids’ day in the middle school.”
Other classes prepare future parents for their responsibilities. Currently, students in these classes use computer programmed devices that “act” like newborn babies to simulate the work of parenting.
This club devoted to community service also knows how to have fun. Gonshor introduced “Pickles,” saying that “we have this dinosaur. We took him on a trip to Charleston with us.” The diminutive dinosaur quickly became the club mascot and traveling partner. Gonshor smiled and said “he’s part of the program now!” Long added, “that’s our buddy!”
The club has rebounded since the pandemic took a toll on service work. Janice Heavener said, “COVID left us with Swiss cheese. We have to go back and fill in the holes.”
Last week, the FCCLA club completed one of their biggest projects of the year. They delivered “cookiegrams” to all teachers for FCCLA Week. These were in addition to cookiegrams ordered and delivered as part of a fundraiser. They delivered over 550 cookies in three different sizes on Friday of that week.
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