RHS Students Compete in FCCLA Conference
Updated: Apr 7
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Mark Bergen
There are many different opportunities for students to pursue their interests inside and outside of the classroom at Rutherford High School. One particular group, the FCCLA, has proven their dedication and commitment during two FCCLA conferences this school year.
This is Rutherford spoke with English teacher and FCCLA Advisor about the FCCLA and the students' successes this school year.
TIR: Can you tell us what FCCLA stands for and what it is all about?
Mark Bergen: FCCLA stands for Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America. The national organization, which includes over 200,000 members across 5,000 chapters in 49 states, has been operating since 1945. This program offers programs, resources, and opportunities for students to grow and engage within the field of Family Consumer Sciences (FCS).
The organization allows students to develop skills in leadership and innovation and take a hands-on approach to projects. For both the Fall and Spring competition, students can select from over 40 projects, which fall under the domains of hospitality & tourism, visual arts & design, human services, and education. On a practical level, within Rutherford High School, students meet weekly to prepare for state conferences by working with advisors, brainstorming with peers, and meticulously cross-referencing rubrics to submit and compete with the best projects possible!
TIR: How do students get involved in FCCLA?
MB: Students typically hear of FCCLA by word of mouth, but each year advisors advertise the club and recruit within their classrooms. Once accepted, all members are registered and affiliated with the national FCCLA and then have access to a plethora of resources, opportunities for scholarships, and state-level officer roles.
This year's members are: Gerisa Asllani, Bella Cardinali, Samantha Kaczmarek, Hannah Kane, Mia Luciano, Mia Olivo, Anna Perrotti, Francesca Perrotti, Lauren Pfleger, Michelle Pfleger, Sarah Sabia, Madison Silverstein-Couto, Molly Sullivan, Ahmet Djurkovic, Maya Forte, Autumn Coleman, Tarik Bicic, Coda Mearizo, and Raena Forte.
TIR: How do the advisors and students work together to prepare for the FCCLA conferences?
MB: Students have their choice in a project that suits their interests and skill set and can either enter projects individually or in small groups. After the project is chosen, advisors and members read through the rubric, set a game plan for development, and meet weekly to ensure benchmarks are met. Mrs. Baumann and Mr. Bergen meet weekly with students to offer suggestions for improvement, ensure deadlines are met for official registrations, and guide any thought processes. With that being said, all original ideas, logistics, and production come solely from the students.
TIR: How long have you been advising this group?
MB: I have been an advisor to FCCLA for four years, with three of them under the wing of “Grand Master Advisor Award” recipient Geraldine Howard, who has since retired. This year I was joined by RHS FCS teacher, Stephanie Baumann, who has extensive expertise in fashion design, consumerism, and nutrition, and was an FCCLA member herself!
RHS Textiles Teacher, Stephanie Baumann, told TIR, "Our FCCLA members are innovative, diligent students. They have rigorous categories to compete in, and they use their creativity to make each project an extension of themselves. I really enjoy helping them navigate through their project from start to finish. It is amazing to see what they accomplish in such a short amount of time."
TIR: What are you most impressed with when watching these students compete?
MB: We are most impressed by the sustained level of effort these students put into these projects, combined with the professionalism displayed at state conferences. Our students are expected to tediously maintain progress for months; some dedicate themselves to community service, others maintain improvements on the creation of fashion wear, while others experiment with modules focusing on time management and self-improvement. Furthermore, while at the state conferences competing, RHS students maintain an admirable standard of decorum, are always dressed in professional attire, and have excellent verbal communication skills when networking with other schools.
Stephanie Baumann told TIR, "I am very proud of our members' accomplishments at both the Fall and Spring Conferences. We, as advisors, see the amount of hard work and dedication students put into their projects. It is rewarding to know that the judges are able to to recognize their efforts reflected through their projects."
TIR: Why do you think participating in FCCLA is valuable for high school students?
MB: FCCLA organization will always maintain itself as one of the most dynamic and applicable approaches to developing skills that will serve our students at the collegiate level and beyond. Students learn valuable skills in self-monitoring and critical thinking and maintain the tenacity needed to meet deadlines while being flexible with constructive feedback. On another note, many of the students they compete against are also top-performing students from other districts, a demographic similar to those students whom they will be engaging with at the college level. From joining to the actual competition date, students continue to grow and produce.
"FCCLA is a Nationally Recognized organization that teaches students how to apply their creativity to projects that require real life skills. It helps prepare them for college, careers, and being an active member of the community. Students are able to utilize FCCLA to network all across the country, now and in the future," explained Stephanie Baumann.
TIR: Anything that you wish to add.
MB: It has been a pleasure to work with so many remarkable students. Their talents keep fuel to my passion for being an educator, and the privilege of seeing students operate within this forum is always nothing short of remarkable!
Below is a list of this year's Conference Winners:
Battle of the Budget - Autumn Coleman, Lauren Pfleger, Michelle Pfleger- 1st Place Gold
Apple Bake-off - Samantha Kaczmarek - 3rd Place Silver Cupcake Challenge - Maya Forte, Ahmet Djurkovic - Gold
Raena Forte, Molly Sullivan- Bronze Chapter Spotlight - Mia Olivo, Francesca Perrotti, Bella Cardinali, and Mia Luciano - Gold Edible Centerpiece - Bella Cardinali - Gold, Francesca Perrotti - Gold Go Green: Planter - Mia Luciano-3rd Place Gold What's the Buzz? - Mia Olivo- 1st Place Gold
Fashion Design - Gerisa Asllani - Silver Repurpose and Redesign - Bella Cardinali, Mia Luciano - Bronze International Food - Francesca Perrotti, Anna Perrotti - Silver Power of One - Madison Silverstein - 1st Place Silver Manner Matter - Hannah Kane, Sarah Sabia, Lauren Pfleger - 3rd Place Gold Yarn Art- Mia Olivo - 2nd Place Gold Effective Teacher - Hannah Kane, Sarah Sabia - Silver