From left, Horseshoe Bend students Sydney Kelly , Brittany East and Makaila Sims display the medals they won in STAR events at the recent FCCLA nationals in California.

Three Horseshoe Bend students and their sponsor got a true California experience while participating in the FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California.

While taking part in the conference and winning medals for their efforts, they took breaks to get more than a feeling for California taking in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, the Star Wars ride at Disneyland and an earthquake.

“It was definitely an experience,” Horseshoe Bend FCCLA advisor Felicia Williams said of the earthquake. “It was the only thing that didn’t cost money.”

Williams said she and the girls were in their ninth floor hotel room when they experienced the first of the earthquakes centered near Ridgecrest, California.

“All week the floor to ceiling window had been popping and cracking,” Williams said. “I thought maybe it was from the expanding and contracting due to heating and cooling. On Thursday night, all of sudden they started to do it again, but the ceiling did too.”

Williams said she and the three girls were trying to figure out what happened.

“The girls were like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s an earthquake,’” Williams said. “Nothing fell off the walls. It was like you were in a fun house but this ride was free.”

Reports rated Thursday evening’s quake at 6.4 and Williams said she learned what they felt in Anaheim was likely like 5.something. 

Williams said she woke Friday morning to another earthquake and woke the girls up.

“They got ready in 10 minutes when they learned of another earthquake,” Williams said. “I’ve never seen teenage girls get ready so fast. They didn’t put on makeup; they were ready to get home.”

While Williams and the students didn’t experience the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Friday evening, they did have a time getting home.

“We circled the Atlanta airport waiting on weather,” Williams said. “It was rain and thunderstorms. We all said we would take the weather over the earthquakes.”

Williams and the students did bring home more than memories of California rides and earthquakes.

Brittany East got a gold medal in Senior Division Promote and Publicize FCCLA, Sydney Kelly got a gold medal in Junior Division National Programs in Action, and Makaila Sims got a silver medal in Senior Division Fashion Design.

The students started working on these projects last September to compete at state in March.

“I’m so proud of these three young women,” Williams said. “They have worked so hard and really represented Horseshoe Bend, Tallapoosa County and Alabama with class and honor.”

Kelly also served as an Alabama state officer and voting delegate for the conference. She helped conduct the state meeting and the STAR events recognition session at the national conference.  As a voting delegate, Kelly was very involved in the selection process of the 2019-20 national officers who will help move FCCLA forward.  

More than 8,700 participants from across the country gathered to attend leadership and program trainings, hear national speakers, meet youth leaders, participate in competitive events and explore college and career options.

More than 4,700 FCCLA members competed in STAR (Students Taking Action with Recognition) events at the national conference. Those are competitive events in which members are recognized for their proficiency and achievement in chapter and individual projects, leadership skills and career preparation.

Events aim to support student development of knowledge and skills by enhancing the classroom experience and career pathway initiatives by equipping students with employable skills and industry insights needed to thrive in the 21st century. FCCLA members choose the STAR event they want to compete in.

In order to advance to the national level in a STAR event, members first compete at the district and state level.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.