"With FCCLA, these kids get to shine in ways they don't normally have the opportunity to," said Mary King, a family and consumer sciences (FACS) instructor at South Laurel High School and advisor of South's Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA.)
"What we teach is everyday skills," she added. "You have some students who can tell you the Pythagorean theorem, but they can't read a recipe and apply those kinds of skills to everyday skills that every student needs."
FCCLA is a national organization where students of FACS -- a curriculum that teaches culinary skills and childhood development -- prepare for the adult world, address societal issues and grow as leaders.
"We try to help out with the community as much as we can," said Kassandra Addison, SLHS Sophomore, FCCLA officer and operator of the club's Facebook and Instagram pages. "This year we're raising awareness on sepsis." She explained that sepsis occurs when one's body sends numerous chemicals into their bloodstream as a response to an infection. It causes widespread inflammation, which can lead to potentially fatal organ damage.
To raise awareness, South's FCCLA is making bracelets, putting up posters, reminding students during announcements each day and constructing a PowerPoint to be presented later in the year. Previously the club donated 126 pieces of headwear to cancer patients. Last year they raised money in a school bake sale to give to foster families in the Laurel County area.
"FCCLA originally started as the Future Homemakers of America," said Erin Nantz, SLHS Sophomore and dedicated member of FCCLA. "We think the name was changed because people thought we just stay at home all day and take care of children."
On top of local community projects, members of the organization get to take part in national competitions. Students Taking Action With Recognition (STAR) events sees students organize projects and compete with other FCCLA chapters.
"First they take their STAR project and have it judged at a regional level" elaborated Kelli Proffitt, South Laurel FACS instructor and advisor for FCCLA. "If they pass that round, they move on to the regional competition. And if they win there, they compete in the nationals." Competition winners are presented with medals and acquire national recognition.
Addison and Nantz's STAR project is to publicize South's FCCLA program.
"At our school, most people focus on sports like football and soccer. Last year we were the only national club not recognized in the student yearbook," said Addison. Additionally, the organization encourages students to partake in self-improvement projects, called "Power of One."
"A Power of One is when you focus on yourself to get yourself ahead," explained Addison, "there's five Power of Ones: Better You, Working on Working, Take the Lead, Family Ties and Speak out for FCCLA."
Another benefit of the club, according to Addison and Nantz, is a sense of belonging.
"I know it sounds corny, but FCLA is a tight-knit family," said Addison, "we go places together. Earlier we went to the movies and saw The Grinch together. And on the 15th we have a Christmas party."
"I joined because FACS class helped me deal with what I was going through at the time," Nantz recalled, "after joining FCCLA, before I knew it, I got compliments. I got friends." She said through the group's activities and community events, FCCLA members get to make friends with many others throughout the school.
"It's like the world's greatest family," Nantz continued, "yeah, you have your real family at home, but then you come to school and you have your own family. You walk down the hallways and all the other members know your name. They all wave at you, they give you a handshake, they hug you. Really they acknowledge you and act like you're a real person."
The advisors say FCCLA looks good on a student's college applications and resumes.
"Some of the students have gone on to work with other environmental ambassadors," said King, "We've had college students that have gone on to become teachers, and we have a lot of students that are early childcare workers."
Addison said that to join FCCLA, students must be in grades nine through 12 and take a FACS course. For those wanting to find them on social media, Addison says to search "South Laurel FCCLA" on Facebook and Instagram.