Skyline duo earns top marks at national leadership conference

September 24, 2013

By Neil Pierson

This summer, Rachel Catterall and Megan O’Brian achieved something none of their peers at Skyline High School can claim.

The two seniors won gold-medal honors in July at the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America’s National Leadership Conference in Nashville. Thousands of students attended the event, but a relatively small percentage did as well as Catterall and O’Brian.

By Neil Pierson Rachel Catterall (left) and Megan O’Brian, Skyline High School seniors earned gold medals from July’s national conference of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

By Neil Pierson
Rachel Catterall (left) and Megan O’Brian, Skyline High School seniors earned gold medals from July’s national conference of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

Projects that qualify for nationals are scored with a rubric — a point-based system that looks at the quality of each component. The points are converted into a percentage, and students earn medals based on their scores.

“The majority of people at nationals get silver medals, which is 80-90 percent,” Catterall said. “Over 90 is gold, and we got 95, I think.”

Catterall and O’Brian spent the better part of the 2012-13 school year preparing the project that was eventually judged to be one of the best in the nation. They were part of the national No Kid Hungry campaign, which seeks to end childhood hunger in the United States.

The project was much more than research; it required hands-on activities. O’Brian and Catterall — who served as the president and vice president, respectively, of last year’s Skyline FCCLA chapter — had to raise money and awareness in their community.

Last October, they held a Wear Orange Day that got a big chunk of the student body involved. Shortly thereafter, they held a two-week food drive that netted hundreds of items for the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

During the spring, the girls partnered with Popcorn Palace to sell treats at the school. They made a $500 profit, which went directly to No Kid Hungry.

Their website, Skyline for No Kid Hungry, chronicles the steps they took. They estimate their efforts reached 95 percent of Skyline’s students.

They also learned a lot in the process. The statistics they gathered were startling — 16 million American children live in homes without enough food, and 10.6 million don’t receive free or reduced-price lunches at school even though they’re eligible.

“I learned a lot about childhood hunger itself,” Catterall said. “I didn’t really realize how big of an issue it is in America.”

The girls were both involved in the school’s Teaching Academy as juniors, and their FCCLA project also relates to possible career prospects in teaching.

O’Brian said there are obvious examples of how meals can positively influence a student’s academic performance, as well as their behavior and emotions at school.

“It’s pretty incredible just what little changes can do,” she said.

Skyline’s FCCLA chapter is recruiting new members this year, the girls said, and because they have a new adviser, they’re expecting some changes. They also know FCCLA will be working with Autism Speaks on outreach efforts in the coming year.

“We’re planning on focusing on that a little more this year,” Catterall said.

O’Brian said she is hoping to see more students join FCCLA and participate in Students Taking Action with Recognition, otherwise known as STAR events. They’re typically centered around community service or family and consumer science activities, she said.

“Our school is allowed to go to state this year because it’s not over our spring break like it was last year,” O’Brian said of the FCCLA event. “We’re hoping to get more students involved in these STAR events, and there is a ton of different STAR events that people can participate in at the state level, and then go to nationals.”

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