Through your high school curriculum, you gain exposure to a vast breadth of knowledge. You learn advanced math and science skills, you gain experience communicating both orally and in writing, and you learn about history and various cultures from around the world. You might even learn a foreign language. But there are many life skills that aren’t taught in a classroom.

 

For example, how will you learn how to create a household budget? How will you learn to cook a nutritious meal for a family or juggle a career with family life? With home economics classes generally the stuff of a bygone era, students now need to learn these various life skills and more outside of the traditional classroom.

 

One avenue for accomplishing this is through the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) organization. This program exists to support students in both public and private schools as they learn essential life skills and discuss important personal, work, and societal issues.

 

If you’re looking for a way to learn more about the responsibilities of adulthood while giving back to the community around you, FCCLA might be a great fit for you. To learn more about the organization and the opportunities it affords, keep reading.

 

What is Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America?

FCCLA is a nonprofit, national career and technical student organization for young men and women involved in Family and Consumer Sciences education in public and private school through grade 12.

 

If Family and Consumer Sciences sounds like an unfamiliar line of study to you, that’s because it has replaced the former title of Home Economics. Home Ec used to be generally regarded as a line of courses to set up future homemakers for success. Now, though, these skills are regarded as essential for almost all adults, not just stay-at-home parents. In fact, classes in the Family and Consumer Sciences will prepare you for careers in social work, education, health education, and personal finance.

 

In line with this shift, FCCLA has replaced the organization formerly known as Future Homemakers of America (FHA). The renaming of the program is a reflection of its shift away from dedicated homemakers towards an overall family focus, including families that work outside the home.

 

In addition to learning more about Family and Consumer Sciences, members of FCCLA also learn about important societal issues. Students can expect to discuss everything from teen pregnancy, parenting, family relationships, substance abuse, and peer pressure to the environment, nutrition and fitness, teen violence, and career exploration.   

 

The goal of FCCLA is to help students expand their potential for leadership and develop lifelong skills. These skills include things such as planning, goal setting, problem solving, decision-making, and interpersonal communication. The organization views these as the soft skills necessary for success in any home or workplace setting.


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How Do Members of FCCLA Participate?    

FCCLA members generally participate in group discussions, educational training sessions, and a combination of service projects and competitions.

 

Education

There are a broad variety of educational programs available through the FCCLA. Many are student-run and offer opportunities to get involved in leadership roles once you’ve learned the material. Some of the programs even culminate in projects that can be submitted for scholarship consideration.

 

One popular FCCLA program is the Career Connection. This program guides students to link their options and skills for success to their families, careers, and communities. It helps students to identify their interests, develop career goals, and initiate a longterm plan towards making those goals a reality.

 

Another popular FCCLA education program is STOP the Violence-Students Taking on Prevention. In this program, students learn to recognize, report, and reduce youth violence by empowering them with the attitudes, skills, and resources necessary for speaking up. Through peer education, students learn to recognize warning signs of potential youth violence, encourage others to report troubling behavior, and develop and implement local action projects to reduce the potential for violence in their school.

 

The FCCLA Financial Fitness program also provides students with lifelong knowledge and skills. Here, members learn to make, save, and spend money wisely. Students learn to become smarter consumers, money managers, and financial planners. They apply this knowledge in a student-created Financial Fitness project related to earning, saving, spending, or protecting money and assets.     

 

Education programs also exist in the areas of traffic safety, strengthening family relationships, youth leadership, and health and fitness. These national education programs are just a few of many ways in which FCCLA members become involved in peer education and prepare for their futures.

 

Service Projects

Another way in which FCCLA members participate is through community service projects. The service projects completed through FCCLA generally raise money or give back to important community causes. You might find yourself collecting donations for a local soup kitchen or raising money towards a local organization that combats teen homelessness. Through its service projects, FCCLA members learn more about important societal and cultural issues in their community and gain experience helping others.

 

In addition to whatever service projects your local chapter of FCCLA participates in, FCCLA also chooses one National Outreach Project with a partner organization each year. In the past, partner organizations have included the American Cancer Society, Feed the Children, and the Make A Wish Foundation.

 

Through these National Outreach Projects, state delegations and members of FCCLA have the opportunity to make a united impact. The national FCCLA officers discuss and present various ways in which FCCLA and other organizations can work together to support the National Outreach Project. These projects not only promote and benefit the partner organization through volunteer and fundraising efforts, but also provide FCCLA exposure to business and industries.

 

Competitions

Competitions are another essential part of FCCLA. These range from competitions within your school’s affiliation to larger regional and even national events. National FCCLA competitions can be big social events where you get to showcase your knowledge and skills while meeting new friends and networking with other FCCLA chapters.

 

Competitions generally take place in several different formats. Students Taking Action with Recognition (STAR) events are formal avenues to recognize members for proficiency and achievement in chapter and individual projects, leadership skills, and career preparation. During STAR events, students present projects they have worked on throughout the year. These formal presentations are scored according to a rubric and winners are determined. You can view a collection of STAR demonstrations on the FCCLA Youtube Channel. 

 

The FCCLA LifeSmarts Knowledge Bowl is a team competition delivered in a traditional quiz bowl fashion. Teams of students are tested in their knowledge of these six content areas:

  1. Personal Finance
  2. Consumer Rights & Responsibilities (to include Family, Career & Community Studies)
  3. Technology (to include Fashion & Housing Design)
  4. Health & Safety (to include Food Sciences & Nutrition and Early Childhood & Human Development)
  5. Environment (to include Hospitality, Tourism & Recreation)
  6. FCCLA Knowledge

In order to participate in the Knowledge Bowl, teams must qualify at a regional event before gaining entrance to the national competition. Study resources for the Knowledge Bowl can be found on the LifeSmarts website.

 

The final type of FCCLA competitions are Skills Demonstrations. At these events, members demonstrate their college and career-readiness skills in Family and Consumer Sciences and related occupations. Categories exist for a broad variety of skills ranging from Nutrition Challenge and Culinary Knife Skills to Technology in Teaching and Interior Design Sketch. These events take place only at National Cluster Meetings.

 

What Do Members Gain Through Participation?

By participating in FCCLA, students develop career skills and learn to balance career and family responsibilities. These alone are essential to work-life balance in the 21st century.

 

In addition, members can expect to strengthen their home and family life, prepare for community living as responsible citizens, and experience the connection between career and academic skills.

 

Members also gain firm experience in a number of valuable soft skills. They commonly achieve improvements in self esteem, ability to apply creative and critical thinking skills, and understanding of self and relationships with others.

 

In addition, participation in FCCLA is strong evidence of your commitment to community and self-improvement. Students who become active members of FCCLA demonstrate their ability to look towards to future towards career and life-readiness. Becoming involved in FCCLA is a smart move for anyone, but particularly for students who plan to pursue careers or higher education in social work, education, health education, nutrition science, or personal finance.

 

How to Become Involved in FCCLA

Many schools have existing chapters of FCCLA that you can join should you want to become involved. If no chapter exists at your school, you may ask a teacher or adviser about forming an affiliated chapter. Instructions for doing so are available online.

 

Alternatively, you might get in touch with your state FCCLA representative to discover other local options that may be available to you. You can find your state representative by using the search feature on the FCCLA Membership Map.

 

If you’re a student who is looking to expand your leadership skills, your engagement within your community, and your connection to a bigger network of similarly-minded individuals, FCCLA might be a good choice for you. Though it is sometimes traditionally thought of as a technical career training program or preparation for stay-at-home parents, the skills it teaches are widely applicable. If you intend to pursue a career in education, health, or personal finances, FCCLA will provide hard skills that are easily transferrable. And if you are focusing on a different line of study, the soft skills you learn from FCCLA will still serve you as you enter adulthood.

 

If you’re unsure if FCCLA is a good fit for you or you’re interested in finding other opportunities, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

 

For more information about extracurriculars, career readiness, and leadership development, see these valuable CollegeVine Posts:

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist