Local students shine at national competition

EHS students Devin O’Harra and Anya Fladland recently returned from a trip to Los Angeles, where they placed second at the national Family Career Community Leaders of America Convention. The trip wasn’t all business; they also went to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and a Los Angeles Angels baseball game. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — Two Evanston high school students, Devin O’Harra and Anya Fladland, recently returned triumphantly from Anaheim, California, with a second-place title at the national Family Career Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) convention. Eight thousand high school students, from all but one of the states in the nation, competed in different categories at the convention. 

Family Career Community Leaders of America is an extra-curricular program offered at high schools across the nation. Trudy Holt has been the advisor for FCCLA for 15 years and teacher of culinary arts, business, childcare and interior design for 21 years at Evanston High School. 

Holt said there are two parts to the FCCLA program — class time and after-school time. Only students who participate in the after-school part can enter the state competition and hope to go on to the nationals. This past school year Holt said she had between 10 and 20 students involved in the after-school part of FCCLA. The after-school FCCLA program meets once a week unless a project is in progress and then they may meet more often, such as the annual cookie bake sale to raise funds to help send winners to state and nationals.

“Devin and Anya are highly-motivated students,” Holt said. “When they won second place at state and were selected to attend the national competition, they did their own fundraising. I wasn’t able to go to nationals with them, as my daughter was competing in track in Australia and I would be going with her.

“Because a teacher wasn’t attending,” Holt continued, “the school district couldn’t pay for the girls to go. Anya’s father went with them. They worked really hard and did catering and cookie sales and other projects to raise funds. They were the only team from Evanston to go to nationals. I am really proud of them.”

When Fladland and O’Harra prepared to fly to Anaheim, they found their wooden tri-fold display was too big and heavy to go with them on the airplane, so they took all of the items off it and took those with them. When they arrived in California they had to purchase another tri-fold and redo their display.

O’Harra and Fladland competed against 100 other students in the category of Chapter and Review, with a tri-fold display of the community service projects they had completed throughout the academic year of 2018-19. When competing, O’Harra and Fladland gave a speech about their project before three judges and explained their display. 

Those community service projects included making and donating blankets to YAHA (Youth Alternative Housing Association), raising money to fund projects by catering the high school dinner theater, partnering with the high school’s National Honor Society to donate to the local backpack program, posting a positive compliment to Evanston High School students on the school’s Instagram page every day, putting up signs at the school and at local churches seeking donations of clothing (ultimately receiving 600 items of clothing and packages of hygiene items; they gave some to needy people locally and took the rest to the Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City), and baking and selling Valentine’s cookies at the high school as a fundraiser and taking some to Best Home Health to give their clients.

“We wanted a project that focused on helping the community and would help to make others’ lives better,” Fladland said.

O’Harra added, “My whole perspective changed with this project. When people are struggling, it is important to be less selfish and to remember to give to others before taking for yourself.”

The convention lasted a week and included their one day of competing, days of workshops and Teen Talks, similar to TED Talks; a trip to a Los Angeles Angels baseball game for the Wyoming group; all 8,000 students went to Knott’s Berry Farm; and on July 4, all 8,000 went to a big party at Disneyland with Mickey and Minnie and a huge fireworks display.

Both Fladland and O’Harra said that meeting people from all over the U.S. was a side benefit to attending the convention.

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