FCCLA Students Among the Best in the Nation – The Advance News

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Students from Vidalia High School and Toombs County High School traveled to Seattle, Washington last week for the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) National Convention, where they placed top three in several national competitions.

Rising Vidalia High School seniors Braylie Davis and Noah Varn placed second in the National Programs in Action: Families First competition, in which they had to come up with an event that would improve the quality of life for their families and communities. To accomplish this, Davis and Varn organized a Christmas film event, “Tis the Season to Celebrate Our Differences,” which focused on involving people with special needs in community activities and raised money for Toombs County Special Olympics, where the couple also volunteered.

During the Dec. 18 event, Davis and Varn hosted a screening of “The Grinch” at the Pal Theatre, where they brought together children with special needs and their peers to provide a safe, fun, and inclusive activity that the entire family could enjoy. The event raised $1,500, which was donated to Toombs County Special Olympics. continued from page

At Nationals, Davis and Varn shared a presentation about their event that highlighted its purpose, community involvement, success, and more. They included articles from The Advance and survey results from those who participated in the film to highlight the impact of their project.

“We really appreciated that because the families in our community, even though it’s a small town, are very close-knit, so we wanted to highlight that. It was important for us to share not only what we had to say about ourselves, but what the community had to say. I think when you’re confident in your event, it’s best not to speak for yourself, but to let the results speak for themselves. Since our event was primarily for families, we really wanted to share what the community had to say and how much they supported us. Don’t just believe us that it was a great event, believe the people who felt included in a way they normally wouldn’t. Believe the families who got to experience it. I have a coach who says that champions don’t have to speak for themselves, so that’s what we strived for,” Davis noted.

She continued, commenting on her experience at the competition. “Nationals was pretty smooth,” Davis shared. “We worked really hard and I knew third place was possible. So I wasn’t shocked, but I was definitely excited. It was one of those things where we prepared to give it our all, so if we didn’t make it, it wasn’t because we couldn’t do better. We exceeded our potential and I’m so proud of us.”

Varn added, “It’s been amazing and such an honor to represent inclusivity in our community, and I think our success in Seattle has allowed us to share that inclusivity even more. We’re so grateful to everyone who helped make that possible.”

When asked what the couple learned most from the competition, they agreed that it was definitely about taking risks. “I think the biggest lesson was just taking risks and making the most of every opportunity,” Davis said. “We had to take a lot of risks and make a lot of changes, so it was a learning experience. It’s a lot to try to raise money and have a successful project, but you have to make the most of it because nothing is going to be perfect.” Overall, we’re very grateful and thankful for the opportunity to learn from this and put on this event. A huge thank you to the community for their support!

Davis and Varn weren’t the only Vidalia High School students to find success at the convention – Hillaree Hankerson, Sanaya Lewis and Rori Johnson took third place in their Public Policy Advocate Project.

As part of their project, the trio worked to educate the local community about the issues African Americans face with hair discrimination and raise awareness about the importance of passing the CROWN Act—which focuses on creating a world of respect and openness for natural hair. The group presented their research at the event, as they had to research the topic, identify a target audience and potential partnerships, develop an action plan, and advocate for the issue to positively influence policy.

“These students, with their extraordinary leadership and poise, continue to amaze me!” said Amanda Mosley, FCCLA sponsor at Vidalia High School. “I am honored to walk alongside them and witness their growth!”

Meanwhile, Ashlynn Reffitt and Grace Holt, students at Toombs County High School, also gained national recognition by placing in the top three in their competitions.

Reffitt competed in the FCCLA Skills Demonstration Creed Speaking event, where she was judged not only on her ability to recite the organization’s creed, but also on her interpretation of it from her own perspective. She had great success at the event, placing 2nd in the nation for her endeavor. “FCCLA is a place where everyone is accepted, and it helped me grow in ways I never imagined,” Reffitt shared of her thoughts on the experience.

Recent Toombs County High School graduate Grace Holt placed 3rd in the FCCLA Students Taking Action with Recognition (STAR) event, RED Talks on Education. During the event, Holt was required to plan, research, and deliver a speech on the growing problem of the teacher shortage.

Holt said she prepared for the event by focusing on the need for teachers and researching ways educators can be retained; she ultimately focused her speech around 5 ways school systems can work to retain their educators. She practiced her speech every day to make sure she was ready for the national competition.

“The competition was very nerve-racking, but I am so blessed and grateful to have placed third in the country and come home with a plaque! Hard work pays off!” Holt emphasized.

When asked what she learned from the experience, Holt said, “The biggest lesson I learned was to never give up and always believe in yourself.” She will now continue her academic career at Georgia Southern University, where she plans to pursue a degree in early childhood education.

Mallorie Corley, FCCLA advisor at Toombs County High School, also took a hands-on approach to the national convention, leading workshops on personality and team dynamics for more than 150 members and advisors. Reflecting on the experience, Corley said, “I am so proud of both students who participated. As an advisor, I strive to teach our members perseverance, independence, confidence and resilience. I want our students to be the best versions of themselves, and I am here to cheer them on.”

STATEMENT OF FAITH SUCCESS – Ashlynn Reffitt placed 2nd in the nation in the Statement of Faith Contest, where she was required to recite the FCCLA Statement of Faith and interpret its meaning from her own perspective and experiences.

RED TALK ON EDUCATION – Grace Holt placed 3rd in the nation for her speech on the importance of teacher retention. She will now continue her education at Georgia Southern University, where she plans to study to become an elementary school teacher.

PUBLIC POLICY DEFENDERS – Rori Johnson (left), Sanaya Lewis (center), and Hillaree Hankerson (right) placed 3rd in the nation for their public policy advocacy project, which focused on the importance of the CROWN Act.