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Driving through the curves to reach success


McKenna Bennett and Bella Burkel found out in late March that they earned FCCLA state office positions. Burkel had earned the FCCLA State Vice-President position and Bennett the State Treasurer position. Bennett also advanced to the National FCCLA Conference with her STAR Event project. (submitted photo)

On March 25, 2021, Greenbush-Middle River students Bella Burkel and McKenna Bennett were navigating through the virtual FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) Minnesota State Conference platform when they came across a video, one labeled “candidates.”
“We were thinking maybe it was just all the people that ran for those positions,” Bennett said.

They found out it would be much more than yet.

“We realized just what the video meant,” Burkel said, “that we had both earned ourselves very important state positions.”

Burkel had earned the FCCLA State Vice-President position and Bennett the State Treasurer position. They found out while returning from a tour at the LifeCare ambulance garage when one of them stumbled across the video. Specifically, they were at a stop sign by the Bethel Lutheran Church when they learned of their achievements.

“We stopped the car, crying, checking for cars behind us,” Burkel said. “We’re like they can pass. We just need to celebrate this right now.”
When they returned to the school, Brittany Burkel—GMR teacher and FCCLA Assistant Advisor— called fellow GMR teacher and FCCLA Head Advisor Laura Dahl, telling her she needed to come outside.

“I thought they had gotten in an accident or something,” Dahl said.

Besides these two positions, the Greenbush-Middle River FCCLA Chapter received news of other successes. Bennett had also earned a spot to the National Conference with her STAR Event project, as did another GMR FCCLA member Berlyn Burkel.

Bella Burkel and McKenna Bennett discussed this year’s state conference, the reason they ran for state FCCLA office, the national-advancing STAR Event projects and the National Conference, and what they enjoy most about FCCLA. GMR FCCLA Advisor Laura Dahl also discussed the success of her chapter.

Running March 25-28, the Minnesota FCCLA State Conference proved to be much different— run this year in a virtual format due to the pandemic. Having never been to an actual in-person FCCLA State Conference, Bennett said it was a weird year to begin.

A previous in-person conference attendee, Bella Burkel explained how it was all different. She didn’t do a STAR Event project this year. She did explain how participating in a STAR Event this year through a virtual format provided for much work— getting everything in line, and ensuring project links work and the lighting for the presentation videos is perfect.

“It’s a completely different experience,” Bella said. “but it’s fun still.”

As for the entire State Conference, it’s virtual platform included different speakers and activities. Bella said it was put together well.

“We had sessions where we watched an interview with the first lady of Minnesota,” Bella said. “So they had a lot of different experience experiences there where you could do things that in a normal year, you wouldn’t be able to see.”

The GMR FCCLA Chapter also brought in some off-site speakers and visits, in an effort to be together for something. As a result, the group filled two days of its virtual State Conference— March 25 and 26—with off-site related activities.

They went to the Robotics STEM Center, participating in different activities and having different people come in and speak to them. They visited Holter Floral and Gifts Greenhouse, learning about plants and making some succulent planters.

The group members also did some challenges, including making structures with jellybeans and toothpicks. They had Roseau County Sheriff’s Deputy Garrett Berg come in to tell them more about law enforcement.

“It was just fun to be able to have those couple of days just to do fun stuff,” Bennett said, “rather than not being able to do anything at all.”
Bella added, “The opportunity to be together after being virtual, just even if with our chapter, it was (a) different state (experience) but still a good one.”

The National FCCLA Conference is slated for June 27 to July 2. The event is being held in a hybrid format— meaning both virtual and in-person. They are letting in a limited amount of individuals— 800— to attend the event in-person.

Dahl is pretty sure Bella and McKenna would both get to attend in-person, considering they’re newly elected officers and, at the time of the March 31 interview, were attempting to get Berlyn in as an in-person STAR Event attendee.

Speaking of STAR Events, McKenna and Berlyn earned spots at the National Conference by virtue of their STAR Event project performances, both finishing first in their respective categories.

At the state level, they had to present while being taped and submit various photos of their entire project display. Dahl said the process proved to be much work and McKenna said that, although they are not presenting in person, doing the video still was “very nerve-wracking.”

Competing under the category of “Repurpose and Redesign,” McKenna made a quilt out of her grandpa’s button-up shirts and jeans. Her grandpa passed away a couple years ago. She was very happy she had earned first and advanced to the National Conference with her project, learning of this achievement via video.

“Just the anticipation of waiting for my category to come up next was crazy,” McKenna said.

Berlyn did a “Food Innovations” project, taking an older, vintage snack and making it modern and healthy. She decided on doing a pop-tart, specifically a strawberry smart-tart. Bella explained how they were loaded with healthy ingredients, such as coconut flour and agave sugar.

“I remember the first time we tasted them, they are so good,” Bella said. “I was very impressed with them.”

As for her students, Dahl was asked about their efforts and successes through a unique time. She pointed to resiliency.

“They really go with the flow much better than we do as adults. And I am thankful every day for their knowledge and use of technology because, without it, Brittany and I would have really struggled,” Dahl said with a laugh. “So it’s been amazing to see their growth that way, too. I know, it’s been a learning curve for them too, but a way sharper curve for us.”

Getting through those curves has led the GMR FCCLA students to success and that moment to celebrate their success with some happy tears.

To see the complete story, read the May 5 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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