Students From J.P Stevens and Edison H.S. Take Top Honors at FCCLA National Conference

Credits: Courtesy of Kelsey Shalonis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Students from both Edison high schools attended the National Family, Career and Community Leaders of America from 4 to 9 July at its annual five day leadership conference in Washington, D.C.

Over 7000 students and advisors attended the event. Two seniors from John P. Stevens High School experienced an unprecedented achievement at the conference. Rohit Iyer was elected as the National Vice President of Finance and Stephanie Zhang was chosen as the Vice President of Competitive Events. Never before in the history of FCCLA have two students from the same state been elected to the National Board, let alone two students from the same school.

“The most challenging thing about running for and winning a national vice presidency was definitely the emotional rollercoaster before and during the election process,” Zhang said. “There were several highs and lows but no matter what, I had to keep my head up and stay calm and composed. I kept reminding myself that it was about the journey and not the destination.”

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Iyer, who had been elected the New Jersey State FCCLA president for this year, and Zhang, who was the N.J. Vice President, had to step aside as state officers, but remain on the state board with voting rights on the state level. Regarding the fact that he had to vacate the state presidency “Giving up my state position is bittersweet because I've had so many great experiences as an officer, Iyer said. “However, I'm ready to take on a new challenge.”

As national officers Iyer and Zhang will have opportunities to travel extensively throughout the United States, representing the organization by leading workshops and giving speeches. They will also help to set policies and develop future goals for FCCLA as committee members of the FCCLA National Board of Directors. Iyer stated, “As the Vice President of Finance, I will also be serving on the National Board of Directors this year. The BOD determines policies and procedures for the national organization and as one of the four youth representatives on the board, I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge.”

Having two students become national officers was not the only outstanding moment for the Edison contingency who attended the National Conference. J.P. Stevens had 44 students in attendance with their advisor, Patricia Di-Gioia Laird. Edison High School, in its second year as a member of FCCLA, sent three delegates along with their new advisor, Meghan McGowen.

During the National Conference students competed in the NLC Star Events for Gold and Silver medals. The competition was extremely rigorous and covered a myriad of areas such as career investigation, entrepreneurship, environmental ambassador, and life event planning. J.P. Stevens won 36 gold medals and six silver medals. Edison High School brought home two gold medals and one silver.

Incoming senior Kelsey Shalonis, who won a Gold Medal at the National Conference in the category of “Job Interview,” explained the process that was entailed in making it all the way to the national competition. Shalonis composed an impressive 20 page portfolio, complete with a resume, cover letter, job goals, documentation of her achievements, understanding of the job for which she was applying as well as other documents that one would need in seeking a professional position. Aside from submitting the portfolio, Shalonis went through a grueling mock job interview, in which she had to convince the interviewers as to why she was the best candidate for the position.

Shalonis stated, “I decided to enter this event because I thought that developing these skills would be helpful to me in the very near future.”

Shalonis, a member of FCCLA since her freshman year explained what the importance of FCCLA in her life.”

“FCCLA means being able to make a difference in the world, even though I'm only a high school student. We do a lot of community service and leadership activities,” Shalonis said. “What I love about the organization is that FCCLA takes teenagers seriously, treats us like we were adults, and truly prepares us for the adult world.”

The list of J.P. Stevens Star Events Results are as follows:

Gold Medals: Esha Patel for Career Investigation, Jennifer Lazarowitz, Shyamala Subramanian, Prachi Patel for Chapter Service, Nick Shenk, Sean Jiang, Jelovus Jeevaraj for Environmental Ambassador, Michelle Qu for Fashion Construction, John Ho, Connor Shah for Hospitality and Tourism, Ria Parikh, Alisha Shah, Bansari Patel for Illustrated Talk, Devanshi Shah, Saachi Joshi, Swara Patel for Interpersonal Communication, Kelsey Shalonis for Job Interview, Anna Huang, Mindy Yip for Life Event Planning, Dimple Pujara, Sara Ajani, Meera Patel, Aditi Singh, Suvina Shah, Oshee Kaul, Saanchi Shah for Parliamentary Procedure, Akaash Parimeru, Amisha Gandhi, Sneha Patil for Promote and Publicize, and Mikhayla Sabo for Recyle and Redesign.

Silver medalists from J.P. Stevens were Gabriella Kahriman for Recycle and Redesign, Kush Patel, Dennis Nguyen for Environmental Ambassador, and Xavier Lee, Ram Patel, and Robert Zhu for Entrepreneurship.

Edison High School had two gold medalists: Kristina Mastracola and Ilona Supel for Life Planning Event, and one silver medalist, Roshni Dogra for Illustrated Talk.

“The competition is not just about the competition, it's about the educational process,” DiGioia-Laird stated.

She added that in her many years of involvement with FCCLA, this was the best group of projects that she had ever seen.

The J.P. Stevens Parliamentary Procedure Team took third in the nation and the Knowledge Bowl Team placed second in the US. Michelle Qu won first place in the nation for Fashion Construction, an award for which she was given three scholarships, and incredible achievement.

FCCLA is an organization devoted to promoting personal growth and leadership development through Family and Consumer Sciences. Focusing on the multiple roles of family member, wage earner, and community leader, members develop skills for life through character development; creative and critical thinking; interpersonal communications; practical knowledge; and career preparation. There are over 200,000 members and advisers national wide.

“FCCLA is my passion. Looking back on my experience in this organization, it astounds me as to how much I have changed as an individual and leader. I've learned so much about myself and what I stand for, and I definitely feel prepared for me time in college and for my future career,” Zhang concluded. “FCCL is for anyone and everyone, and I am so fortunate to have met people from all walks of life. There are so many opportunities to discover yourself and your passions, and to realize how powerful youth can be, because FCCLA members do amazing things every day that impact families, schools, and communities around the nation.”

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