By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The Family, Career and Community Leaders of America students at Warren County Middle School have managed to win three state and one national award for their service projects this year.
FCCLA is in its second year at the school, and is led by Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Christina Tharp. Though Tharp has been teaching for 10 years, FCCLA was always her passion.
"People hear that I teach Family and Consumer Sciences and they think it's Home Economics, but it's much more than that," she said. "I'm teaching character traits, how to balance a checkbook, understanding taxes...there are so many other topics and applicable skills."
Students in her class are eligible to be in FCCLA if they have at least a C average in all classes. This year, Tharp had about 20 consistent participants.
She and five of her students recently traveled to Virginia Beach for the group's state leadership and recognition conference. The students brought home one bronze and two silver medals for their project presentations.
FCCLA members sent care packages and cards to soldiers in Afghanistan and were able to collect about $800 worth of merchandise for the packages, Tharp said.
Members also visited a senior care facility and were selected to win a $1,000 national award for their violence prevention project. Tharpe said 25 FCCLA chapters from Virginia alone applied for the award.
Students chose to take on name calling at the middle school, and in the month of December, handed out brochures, stickers and bookmarks to educate peers as part of the "Check it at the Door" campaign. Shirts also were made, and FCCLA conducted a poem contest, from which the winning entry was placed on the bookmarks they distributed.
Additionally, almost 600 middle-school students signed the "No Name Calling" pledge.
Tharp will go to Florida in July to accept the award, which will help fund next year's main project.
Max Kelly, a 12-year-old 7th grader, plans to participate in the group again next year, as well as continue to recruit other students.
"Being able to help other people that are in need is the main thing I like," he said.
Kaitlyn Barbee, 12, agreed.
"The joy of helping people brings us all together," she said. "Mrs. Tharp is amazing. ... This is something she really cares about and she tries to bring it into everything she does."
Angela Vasishta, 11, feels FCCLA spreads farther than just inside the school's walls.
"We're learning things ourselves, but then also helping the community, so it's a positive impact on everybody," she said.
Tharp hopes the desire to serve will continue beyond middle school.
"Now, they get to see what it means to really help somebody, and hopefully when they grow up they do service projects in their own community, wherever that may be," she said. "These kids have just blossomed."