Howerton earns state gold, advances to FCCLA nationals
Freshman Jacey Howerton is spreading Bobcat Pride from Berryville all the way to Nashville, Tenn.
Howerton competed in the state level of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) STAR Events in Conway last week and won first place in the Chapter Service Project Display category with her “Pass the Bobcat Pride” project, qualifying for the national competition in Nashville this July.
She said the goal of the project has been to collect gently used or new Bobcat shirts and spirit wear to provide them to students who don’t have any and allow them to participate in school spirit events.
Howerton said she was excited to learn that she would be moving on to the national level of the competition.
“This is my first year doing the STAR Events, so I really didn’t know how it was going to go,” she said. “So when the judges called my name for gold and said I was going to nationals, I was really excited.”
FCCLA adviser Leah Bunch said there are three score rankings for the competition: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Scores between one and 69 are Bronze, she said, while scores between 70 and 89 are Silver. Students must receive a score of 90 or above for a Gold ranking, she said.
“Jacey got first in her division with a score of 91. She was the only one to place gold in that category this time,” Bunch said. “She is only the second kid in my 13 years of teaching who has qualified for nationals. It’s not an easy feat.”
To prepare for the state level of the competition, Howerton said she involved more members of Berryville High School’s FCCLA chapter to help collect Bobcat shirts, launder them and sort them. She said they had a big Bobcat shirt giveaway the day before homecoming in January.
“We set up in the cafeteria during both lunches for the high school,” she said. “We made all of our shirts available for students to come and choose.”
Howerton said the FCCLA chapter gave away over 100 Bobcat shirts. She said that Pass the Bobcat Pride also partnered with local community organizations, such as the Kiwanis Club of Berryville and Bright Futures Berryville, to extend the project’s reach. Howerton said the Kiwanis Club donated 43 Bobcat T-shirts to the program in January.
Mindy Hicks, coordinator of Bright Futures Berryville and Howerton’s mother, said Bright Futures was able to use the shirts donated to Berryville Elementary School for the Special Olympics team.
“The elementary school needed a uniformed look for Special Olympics, and they were able to get enough matching shirts thanks to the donations from Pass the Bobcat Pride,” Hicks said. “So it kind of happened after FCCLA distributed the shirts. That’s where the Bright Futures site council came in and were able to work with Special Olympics coordinators to get our kids a uniformed look for competition.”
During the presentation at the state competition, Howerton said, she had to give a 10-minute run-through of her project to three judges.
“I made sure to hit every point on the rubric,” she said.
“She improved her project between district and state,” Bunch said, “and improved her speech a lot. She went from Silver at the district level to Gold at the state level.”
For the national competition this July, Howerton said that she plans to touch up a few points in her presentation and speech and maybe add some new items to her project board.
Bunch said the national competition also serves as a leadership conference for the students participating.
“Jacey will go and learn leadership skills during seminars and be able to bring that back to the school next year,” she said. “All of the Arkansas delegates will stay together in one hotel. She will be in that group for the leadership conference.”
Hicks, who also participated in the national level of FCCLA STAR Events when she was in high school, said the Arkansas delegates travel together but also get to meet and interact with students from other states.
“When I did it, you traveled and made a lot of connections,” she said. “Like Jacey, I was the only student from my school, so I was able to develop friendships, and, back then, we would write letters to each other later.”
Hicks continued, “You learned how different things are across the country and even across the state. We had FCCLA pins for each state, and we were encouraged to trade them with delegates from other states and try to get our bags covered with pins from all 50 states.”
Howerton said she is looking forward to meeting new people at the national competition and possibly bringing new project ideas back. If her Pass the Bobcat Pride project wins at the national level in the Chapter Service Display Project category, she said she will have to present it in a different category when she participates in the STAR Events next year.
“I will continue building on this project and presenting it,” Howerton said. “Depending on how nationals go, I may have to adapt it some next year.”
Bunch said they plan on holding fundraisers, pending approval from the school board, to help with the costs of travel, hotels and conference registration fees.
“A few individuals have said they will sponsor Jacey,” Bunch said. “If anyone is interested in donating to help with travel expenses, they can contact me at the high school. That way, I can make sure it’s earmarked for FCCLA and goes to Jacey’s account.”