Three groups from the Dawson County High School Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club recently scored at the top of their categories at a regional FCCLA competition and will be moving on to compete at the state level in March.
Among the teams who claimed success for Dawson County were three high school seniors who earned second place at the FCCLA Region Baking and Pastry competition. Anna Lee, Megan Dixon and Bernadine Baptiste baked five different recipes in a two and half hour time limit and scored a total 86.6 out of a possible 100 points to secure their spot at the state competition.
For the competition, the three bakers made petit fours, chocolate lava cakes, cranberry orange scones, galettes and rosemary focaccia bread. In the two and a half hour time limit, they had to bake, plate and serve all of the recipes to the judges, all of whom are industry bakers.
“We were in a time crunch, we were in a small confined area, we were given limited stuff and we had to bring our own mixing bowls, kitchen aids and ingredients so it was a lot,” Dixon said. “But we worked well together as a team and the judges said that our plating was the best out of all the teams that were there and that our focaccia bread was ‘restaurant-worthy’.”
Dixon, who made it to the national level of the same competition last year as a junior, added that she knew from last year some of what the judges would be looking for. The group brought all of their own utensils, ingredients and other needed material, including rosemary from Dixon’s garden to put in the focaccia bread.
Baptiste, who runs her own baking business out of her home, said that baking is something she’s always loved. After high school, she hopes to go to college and open her own bakery. The competition, she said, was more difficult than they thought it would be going into it but prepared them well for the next step of competition at state.
"It’s definitely gonna take a lot of work, but after regions now we know we have to work really hard,” Baptiste said. “I feel like they’re testing our skills as much as our resourcefulness.”
In the state competition, the group will be competing against about eight other groups from all over the state. They will make three recipes for the judges, but the catch this time is that they’ll be set up in a room that’s not a kitchen so they’ll have to bring all of their own materials including their own water.
To practice for the state competition, FCCLA Advisor Lori Grant said that the girls will be set up in a room in the College and Career Center other than the kitchen and given very limited resources so that they can get a feel for how the state competition might be. She added that the judges are all professional bakers, so their standards are set very high for the competitors.
“They’re from the industry so they’re actually bakers, so they’re very particular about the length of their pants, did they touch their pants — that’s how serious they are,” Grant said.
Dixon said that she and her group are excited for the state competition, especially after their success at regions.
“It was a really fun experience and I think that it prepared us a lot for state,” Dixon said.
Another student whose project claimed her a spot in the state competition is Jenna Hurst, a DCHS senior who worked hard to compile her project about therapy dogs for the Public Policy Advocate competition. Hurst’s project earned her a score of 97 out of 100.
Hurst’s project consists of dozens of hours of research about therapy dogs, their effects on people, and the school system’s lack of policy on the topic, whether permitting or not permitting therapy dogs. As a Public Policy Advocate project, the goal is to help bring about change, so before the competition Hurst also presented her research to the Dawson County Board of Education in hopes of the creation of a policy allowing students to have therapy dogs in the school system.
During the FCCLA competition, Hurst presented all of her research to a panel of judges, explaining the work she’s put into the project and why she is so passionate about it.
“They asked me why I was passionate about it and I told them I’ve seen the positive impacts and talked about the mental health side of it, how so many people are struggling and I’ve struggled before, and you could see how it was helping,” Hurst said.
Hurst said that she got done with her presentation before her 10 minute time limit was up and received a lot of good feedback from the judges. The main reason that points were deducted from Hurst’s final score, Grant said, were because she moved around a little too much during her presentation and because she didn’t yet have measurable results of a policy change or a result that her project has brought about.
“The only thing Jenna lost points on was because we can’t show that the policy has been implemented, because we can’t do that until the board or whoever makes a policy,” Grant said. “So that’s really out of our control… we would never try to rush them into anything, but if there was a policy made out of it she could tie that into her presentation.”
Hurst said that between now and the state competition she plans on tweaking her project slightly to take into effect the judges’ critiques, and that she hopes to have a more measurable “result of advocacy” by the time she goes to the state competition in March.
“I’ll tweak it just a little bit, hopefully I’ll have more information to add and hopefully by March I’ll have a set in stone ‘this is the day they said yes, this is the day it went into effect’ and that kind of thing,” Hurst said. “I’m a little bit nervous [for state] just because it’s different, but I’m excited; I think it’ll be good.”
The final group from Dawson County that will advance to compete at state consists of seniors Blake Smith and Mackenzie Stover, who scored 96 points out of 100 for their Chapter in Review project.
In their 15 minute presentation, Smith said that she and Stover had to give an overview of the FCCLA’s membership, community service activities and funds and how each compares to those of last year.
“We have to explain everything we’ve done for our club so far, and they ask you to set a goal for your project, so our goal was to compare our membership, community service activities and funds from this past year to this current year,” Smith said. “They asked us to explain our budget and resource development, all of our community service and any membership campaigns, just everything basically.”
In their presentation, Smith and Stover presented how the club has increased its members, activities and funds in the past year. She said that, while she was a little nervous at the beginning, the presentation got easier as it went on.
“I was nervous in the beginning, but then the judges were really sweet and kind of comforting so I got more comfortable, and since we practiced a lot it wasn’t as bad,” Smith said. “And at state I don’t think I’ll be that nervous since I’ve already done it.”
For the state competition, Smith and Stover will present their same project with some tweaks and changes made to it.
“They gave us little critiques and the only thing we got critiqued for was our national programs since we only have one, so we’re gonna try to improve that somehow,” Smith said.
All three teams will advance to compete at the state competition on March 25 to compete for the chance to advance to the national competition, which will be held in San Diego this year. In addition to the competitions themselves, the girls will get the chance to go to FCCLA sessions, network, and learn important life skills during the trip, Grant said.
Grant said that, as the FCCLA advisor, she couldn’t be more proud of her students for their success in the regional competition.
“I’m so proud of them because they’ve all worked so hard,” Grant said. “This is probably the most competitive group I’ve had, so they’ve worked the hardest, and they’re very self-driven, so they read the rubrics on their own which are difficult."
Grant added that, while FCCLA does all that they can to help support the competitors financially, each girl has to pay about $150 to go to the state competition and, if they advance to nationals, $1200 each to take the trip to San Diego. Because of this, she said that the girls will most likely fundraise to get the money they need to go, and any donations to sponsor the competitors are welcomed. For more information on how to contribute to helping sponsor the FCCLA competitors, contact Lori Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.