COLONY — What started as a way to honor a friend turned into a tradition of national proportions for two Crest students.
Anna Hermreck and Lindsey Godderz, both seniors, are making their fourth appearance at the national conference for Family, Career and Consumer Leaders of America (FCCLA).
They’re returning because of efforts to create a Christmas party for area children, which allowed them to make presents to give to loved ones.
The girls took first place at a state competition in Wichita on April 4 and 5.
“We’re a good team,” Anna said. “We’re both so different but so similar in our passion and goals.”
THE TWO girls have been best friends since preschool.
“We went to toddler group together, so we’ve grown up working together,” Anna said. “We love our community and we’re involved in every activity there is.”
Both joined FCCLA as freshmen. But the group offered not just an opportunity for them to give back, it also gave them a chance to heal.
One of their classmates and friends had recently died by suicide.
The girls chose to honor their friend by hosting a Christmas party for their class, and made cookies to deliver to the girl’s family.
“Our class is so small, we’re all like brothers and sisters, so we wanted to do something that would help us bond and come back together after a tragedy,” Anna said.
They entered the project in FCCLA competition called STAR Events — Students Taking Action with Recognition. It won at the state level and qualified them for a trip to the national conference. That year, it was in Anaheim, Calif.
“We didn’t do it for the points. We did it because it was something we cared about and we wanted to share the story,” Anna said.
“Losing someone who was close to me was really hard,” Lindsey added. “Being able to talk with my classmates and do something fun made it a lot easier.”
THE TRIP to a national competition helped the girls learn more about themselves.
“I used to be really shy,” Anna said, as if to prove how much she has changed. She did much of the talking during the interview, clearly comfortable taking the lead.
She’s the creative force, the one with lots of ideas.
Lindsey is more organized. She keeps them on schedule. She makes plans.
“I’m just passionate about helping others,” Anna said. “And I know she is, too.”
By their sophomore year, the girls felt a little bit of pressure. They had achieved so much as freshmen. Could they maintain that level of success?
The answer was yes.
Not only did they again qualify for the national competition, this time they placed 7th.
Their project focused on community service and was titled “No Act Too Big or Small: Community Service Helps Us All.”
They partnered with elementary classes for three different types of community service.
They helped third-graders create placemats for an annual senior citizens’ dinner.
They worked with fourth-graders to make homemade dog toys out of old towels and household supplies, then donated the toys to the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility (ACARF).
They showed fifth-graders how to write letters to local veterans, and made Christmas ornaments.
“We set the highest bar for ourselves and just kept going,” Anna said.
“It made us want to work even harder,” Lindsey said.
Their junior year, they faced various restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. FCCLA events were virtual.
That led them to create a project perfect for the moment: cyber safety. Their project was “Downloading Change.” They explored ways social media can negatively impact health.
Again, they qualified for the national conference. They placed 14th.
SENIOR YEAR gave them a chance to reflect on things that mattered, especially as some of the COVID restrictions began to ease.
Growing up in Colony, the girls had always attended the annual Christmas parade. They were concerned that in recent years, participation had dropped. They wanted to do something that would encourage children to come to the parade and make special memories, just like they had.
They created “Unwrap the Gift of Giving.” They set up various stations to help children make ornaments, such as a beaded candy cane, a popsicle stick Christmas tree and snowmen and reindeer.
They set a goal to bring in 25 children; more than double that number showed up.
Their adviser, Caitlin Callaway, said she was very proud of the girls’ efforts, not only this year but throughout high school. She’s also Anna’s cousin, so she has seen the girls grow up.
“They were awesome from the start, but they’ve really grown as public speakers,” Callaway said. “It’s been amazing to watch.”
Callaway will not be able to attend the national conference, as she is pregnant. Anna’s mother will serve as their chaperone. The conference will be June 29 to July 3 in San Diego, Calif.
Next year, the girls will go separate ways. Anna plans to attend Allen Community College, then Pittsburg State University to become a preschool teacher. Lindsey plans to attend the University of Kansas to study business.
“I’m so thankful I get to do these STAR Events with my best friend and the best adviser,” Lindsey said. “It’s definitely going to help me throughout my life.”