Monday, April 13, 2009

FHA-HERO Pushes Teens to Excel

State winners of the Consumer Education, Senior Division Competitive Recognition Event, smile as they accept trophies for their work. This was one of 20 competitions sponsored annually by FHA-HERO, each of which culminated with a state championship on March 29. These winners are Akyra Frisch, second place, Kern Valley High School in Lake Isabella; Katie Jones, first place, Los Molinos High School in Los Molinos and Pofun Wang, third place, Rowland High School in Rowland Heights. Pofun and others in her chapter, including her advisers, say that FHA-HERO pushes them to excel, both through these competitions and in other aspects of the co-curricular student organization, offered alongside the state's Home Economics Careers and Technology courses.

(FRESNO, Calif.) “I love seeing a student who is shy in class come out of her shell and give a speech to a room full of strangers,” said Tracy Taylor, an advisor to Rowland High School’s FHA-HERO co-curricular student organization.

As she said this, Taylor smiled at her student, Pofun Wang. Pofun had earlier in the day taken part in the Senior Division Consumer Education competition, which required her to give a speech to three industry experts serving as judges, two FHA-HERO advisers who were running the competition and whom she had never met before, and others who were interested in what the students had to say.

“I was nervous,” Pofun said. “But I wanted to win.”

Two days later, Pofun smiled and accepted a third-place trophy for her effort. Her schoolmates Josh Cruz and Ujala Batool also received third-place trophies, as winners in the Prepared Speech and Job Application & Interview events. Joanna Guo, a ninth-grader at Rowland High School, took second place in the Junior Division of Menu Planning & Table Display.

Carnie Chung and Josh Huang, who attend Alvarado Intermediate School, took second in the Junior Division of Nutrition Education, rounding out the winning contingent from Rowland Heights at the Competitive Recognition Events state championship held in Fresno recently. This was part of the State Leadership Meeting, an annual leadership training event for members of FHA-HERO from throughout California.

There were other students from Rowland Heights who competed in the state championship. While they did not take home trophies, these students and others throughout the state have benefited from trying their best. So have the many students in FHA-HERO who did not compete, but who are active in the organization.

Taylor sees FHA-HERO helping her students in several ways. One is through the Competitive Recognition Events in which some of her students took part. Another is through the leadership experience more of her students gained at the State Leadership Meeting and by taking part in the Region 9 (Los Angeles/Orange County) meetings earlier in the year.

“They’re getting to meet many different people and build connections,” she said. “And in the competitions, it gives them a taste of their future. Now they know what they might face when they are older and looking for a job.”

A third benefit Taylor sees is building confidence in her students. At Rowland High School, some members already have a healthy dose of confidence, because they have taken part in FHA-HERO Competitive Recognition activities since they were seventh-graders at Alvarado Middle School.

Even if they have yet to bring home a trophy, they keep pushing forward. They hope that next year, they will do better.

“We like to compete,” said Rebecca Sun, a Rowland High School 10th-grader. “We like to win.”

Others, like Pofun, competed for the first time this year. Winning has certainly boosted her confidence.

This confidence is exactly what State FHA-HERO Adviser Janice DeBenedetti wants students in FHA-HERO to have.

“FHA-HERO builds confidence,” she said. “It prepares students for success in life, both knowing how to work with others and learning specific skills they can use in a career.”

There are more than 750 schools offering the Home Economics Careers and Technology program in California, serving more than 300,000 students. Many of these also offer the co-curricular student leadership and career development program FHA-HERO. For more information, call State Adviser Janice DeBenedetti at (916) 323-5025.