CMS students prepare for FCCLA national conference

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

ALABASTER – Students from Columbiana Middle School practiced presentations they will give at the upcoming FCCLA National Leadership Conference before a local audience on June 24.

Days before they were set to leave for the conference in Anaheim, California, two groups of students ran through their presentations and listened to feedback from about 20 school system and community representatives at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center.

Samantha Pursley, CMS FCCLA co-advisor with Patsy Casella, said CMS was the only middle school in Shelby County whose students competed in the state competition. Three of the school’s four teams that qualified for the national competition June 29-July 5 placed first at the state level.

“I’m just incredibly proud of them,” Pursley said. “They’re very inspiring.”

Tanner Stogner, Abigail Rush and Jaxon Griffith will compete in Interpersonal Communication as the “Upstanders.”

They met with multiple stakeholders to determine the greatest social need within their school and determined students needed to have a better understanding of bullying and how to combat it.

The group developed a series of workshops to teach students about aspects of communication, and once students understood the impact and value of communication skills, they taught students the impact of communication on bullying and conflict.

“I’m definitely blessed and grateful to my parents, family and friends, and especially to God for giving me this opportunity,” Rush said, adding she and her classmates worked long hours outside of school to complete their projects. “I’m really excited to go.”

Griffith said he felt “great” about the group’s presentation heading into nationals.

“We have been doing this since September,” he said. “I’m nervous, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is my mini family right now.”

Stogner said he went to the national competition in Atlanta as a seventh grader in 2018, and is hoping to see friends he made from other states at this year’s competition.

In addition to new friends, FCCLA has helped Stogner overcome his shyness, he said.

“It’s really opened me up as a person,” he added. “Meeting new people doesn’t scare me anymore.”

Anna Smith and Sarah Elizabeth Shelton will compete in Entrepreneurship as founders of their monogram business, “Get Crafty.”

Smith and Shelton founded the business, which supports FCCLA, after researching the idea of a personalized business, securing supplies, completing feasibility studies, consulting with experts and establishing a marketing strategy.

They ran the business for a month and generated nearly $300 for the club.

Shelton said they refreshed their presentation after state in preparation for the national conference.

“I’m looking very forward to nationals,” she said.

Smith said the project helped her understand the responsibility of starting a business from scratch.

“It was a lot to do,” she said. “State was an amazing feeling, and now, we get to go present that in California, and I’m really excited.”

The third group that took first place at state in Illustrated Talk was Victoria Farish and Alex Gillum.

Farish and Gillum researched relevant issues to their community and discovered students are not aware of the impact of sugar and caffeine on their health.

They researched the topic and designed a skit using humor and puns with illustrative resources to help students understand the effects.

They presented information to all sixth grade students, and utilized technology to design and administer surveys to determine the growth of students’ understanding.

Pursley said all of the students have worked hard to be community leaders while gaining personal skills in technology, leadership, communication and presentation to peers, school level evaluators and FCCLA state judges.

“Thank you for representing the Columbiana community and Shelby County Schools,” Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks said. “This is so big for us as a whole, and it’s a great opportunity.”

The students have spent on average more than 40 hours preparing for the competitions, Pursley said.

“We are extremely thankful to career tech supporting these kids,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here without them and just really appreciate their support.”
For updates on the students’ events at the national conference, follow _cms_fccla_ on Instagram.