NASHVILLE, TNTrading in face masks for red blazers, Washington County joined students from around the country for a taste of normalcy at the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America’s (FCCLA) National Leadership Conference, held June 27-July 2, 2021, in Nashville, TN. After over a year of mask mandates, social distancing, and virtual learning, FCCLA’s student members were ready to reunite in person to participate in professional development opportunities, career exploration, and youth leadership sessions aimed at advancing families, careers, and communities through Family and Consumer Sciences education.

“As we adjust to this new normal, I was eager to finally put back on my red jacket and travel to Nashville for FCCLA’s National Leadership Conference,” said Supy Patel, 2020-2021 FCCLA National President. “Coming back together since COVID for an FCCLA conference is exactly what we students need after this challenging school year.”

Conference highlights included an inclusion, access, equity, and diversity panel led by former Survivor: One World contestant, Sabrina Thompson Mitchell, and accompanied by seven high-level business and industry leader panelists, as well as workshops and industry related demonstrations.  Career preparation and leadership in our chapters, schools, and communities after the pandemic were a few of the session topics.

“A lot has happened in our world this year,” said Sandy Spavone, Executive Director of FCCLA. “This conference served to provide students with a safe space to engage in important conversations, celebrate this year’s accomplishments, and strengthen students’ employability skills.”

Students from Washington County qualified for the National Leadership Conference by competing in STAR (Students Taking action with Recognition) Events both at the district and state levels. Riley Dusin and Emily Jones competed in the National Programs In Action Level 3 event and earned a Gold rating.   Michaela Jueneman and Tiffani Allerheiligen competed in the Focus On Children Level 3 event.  They received a silver rating at nationals.  Both teams competed virtually in May with the results announced and medals awarded at the national conference. “Even though this year's conference was substantially smaller in attendance, there were excellent speakers, workshop presenters and industry related career demonstrations for  students and advisors to take part in”, said Lisa Zabokrtsky, WCHS advisor. 

 The students also took part in the “We Help Two” service project.  This organization provides corrective foot braces for children born with clubbed feet in developing countries.  WCHS students and advisor each painted a pair of the corrective shoes.  This conference had the largest number of corrective shoes donated to date for the organization.  

Kansas was recognized as having the largest delegation present at the conference and had both an outgoing and incoming National Officer.   Additionally, of the eight national Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), FCCLA is the only organization to host an in-person leadership conference this summer.