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Submitted photo The New York Mills FCCLA group competed at the regional competition Feb. 13. The entire group will be advancing to state on April 19-21.

NY Mills students shed light on sensitive topics

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Tackling topics like teen suicide and the real meaning of love, 12 New York Mills students earned their way to the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) state competition.

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On Feb. 13, in Lake Park, the FCCLA group earned a variety of gold and silver ribbons after presenting their star events - final presentations of their chosen topics - before two judges.

This year's FCCLA group, consisting of seventh through 10th grade girls, tackled sensitive issues like teen suicide, the impact and influence of friends, fashion icons, the difference between love and infatuation, and birth defects.

Throughout the beginning of the school year, individually or with a group, FCCLA members researched their topic and built a presentation. The six to seven minute speeches had to inform an audience, using accurate facts and figures in an organized style.

Before last week's competition, the FCCLA group practiced their star events in front of their peers, a true test for some, as classmates can be judgmental.

"A few told me they learned a lot," said Abby Salo, who was part of a trio that tackled teen suicide.

Salo's group presented some startling statistics. According to their research, teen suicide is quite common - in one year, teen suicides take more lives than war violence.

"Things we do and say may not seem like a big deal, but for some it may be a decision between life and death, because we don't know what others are feeling," Salo said.

The group learned the signs to watch for with teen suicide, as well as ways to prevent it.

Presentations like this gave students the opportunity to show leadership in the community, by actively taking part in researching and sharing information about important topics.

At regionals, the evaluations were based on strict grading rubric. FCCLA leader Trina Saewert said they could even lose points if setup took them longer than two minutes.

Everything from start to finish was evaluated - from where they got their information to how the facts were displayed. They were also judged on how they introduced themselves and how their speech concluded.

Seventh grader Heather Weller scored well with her closing statement after a speech about birth defects: "The only disability in life is a bad attitude."

The presenters had to be prepared to answer questions about how or why they chose their topics. Some had a personal reason, like Weller, who chose birth defects because her friend has one.

The grading rubric is tough at regionals, and even tougher at state. The state meet only sends one person per category to the national competition, whereas many can be sent forward from regionals.

According to the FCCLA website, its mission is to promote personal growth and leadership development through family and consumer science education.

This is an extracurricular activity, and all the girls built their presentations on their own time. Taylor Plautz said her presentation on the difference between love and infatuation took her 25 hours to put together.

Not all topics were as serious as teen suicide. Some of the girls chose lighter topics, such as saving money with coupons, and kitchen equipment "as seen on TV." All topics were imperative to families and communities.

The state competition will be held April 19-21 in Bloomington, Minn. The three-day journey will include a variety of seminars like self-defense and social media, as well as a chance to present their star events before a group of three judges.

From now until April, the group will take advantage of the notes and suggestions regional judges gave them, and work on perfecting their presentations.

The state competition costs $78 a student, which has been paid for by the FCCLA concession stand fundraiser.

The FFCLA group members not yet mentioned are: Shelby Steinbach, Savannah Leiran, Amber Barvels, Deanna Hoffenkamp, Ellie Rutten, Maddy Keskitalo, Mariah Novak, Mallory Weber and Leah Roberts.

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