Service projects and fundraisers are not new to school clubs and organizations, but what sets them apart are the students and teachers who champion them. Take a group of students with a common goal or mission and let them run with new ideas and you get something great: people who want to make the world a better place, or in this case, give the gift of education to two other students in another part of the world.
Herriman senior, Aspen Clark is the president of the FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) organization at Herriman, and she was recently awarded the Sterling Scholar award for her devotion and hard work for the club, along with her academic accomplishments.
During a recent cluster meeting, she and her advisor, Jennifer King, were introduced to the service project selling Yuda Bands, which are hand-made bracelets made from leather and coconut, to raise money to fund a year’s education for two students in Guatemala.
“FCCLA gives students an opportunity to meet other people in their school and the state that have similar interests and hobbies,” King said. “Involvement also gives students the chance to make a difference in their community and world by being a part of service projects like Yuda Bands. They compete in STAR Events where they prepare a project in one of these areas, present what they did and have the opportunity to compete at a national competition and even earn scholarships. Many students that I’ve known through FCCLA have left knowing exactly what career they want to have because of their involvement.”
Aspen Clark is the President of the FCCLA and recent winner of the Sterling Scholar Award for Herriman High School. Photo courtesy of Herriman High School
Aspen and her fellow FCCLA members set a goal of selling 350 Yuda bands to fund two students, Wilian Lool & Veleyda Huz. The group was able to choose the students they wanted to support after reading biographies and seeing photos, making the project much more personal. After just one day of selling the Yuda bands they only had 110 left to sell to reach their goal.
“We liked the idea of selling Yuda bands because it comes full circle to help break the poverty cycle in Guatemala, plus it was relatively low hassle for us,” King said. “It starts by creating jobs making the bands in Guatemala, then school organizations sell the bands. Selling 175 bands equates to 1 year of school for a sponsored student, then the money goes toward paying for a Guatemalan student to go to school.”
Being part of the FCCLA has been a positive part of a personal journey for Aspen. At a young age Aspen was diagnosed with alopecia, an auto-immune disease that causes complete hair loss. Due to the condition, Aspen suffered from depression and bullying, middle school was exceptionally difficult. Being in a club with like-minded people has been very helpful for her.
“Being part of FCCLA was good choice for me because I love to do this kind of stuff, cooking and sewing are my hobbies,” said Aspen. “I started my sophomore year, became the historian my junior year and now I am president. I love my advisors and this has inspired me to be a FACS teacher too. I love helping and serving others as well.”
Her commitment to helping and serving others led her to the Sterling Scholar win for FACS. In her essay submission, Aspen shared how she discovered that one of her neighbor’s nieces was also diagnosed with alopecia. After learning of the diagnoses, Aspen washed her favorite wigs to give to her and went to meet the young girl. Giving her the wigs and sharing her own story was life changing for Aspen.
“Helping her has helped me overcome my own depression,” said Aspen. “I just told her to keep her chin up and that things will be fine, to love yourself and be proud of yourself.”
Besides struggling with alopecia, Aspen was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 12. She was prescribed a medication that suppresses her immune system, but from that second diagnosis came an unexpected gift: Aspen’s hair has begun to grow back.
“I have started to let my little bit of hair show under my wig; I now show it off as my way of accepting it,” Aspen said. “People have started to ask me about the hair and it has really helped me with my self-esteem because I can now express myself to others.”
The day after Aspen was awarded the Sterling Scholar award, she received another unexpected gift, a phone call from Brigham Young University, offering her a full scholarship. Aspen was over the moon. She had applied but had not heard back until that day.