DAYTON — It is a good time to be in FCCLA at Tongue River High School as the group recently returned home from the national competition with pride behind them and good news ahead.
The Family Career and Community Leaders of America are a group of students from the family and consumer sciences studies who, at TRHS, have been led by teacher Pat Mischke for many years.
After a successful state level competition in March, Mischke and 14 of her students traveled to the National Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas, to compete against 7,500 high school students from across America.
“You can’t imagine what it’s like there. They are all good living people. They all have common interests,” Mischke said. “Family and community are what it’s all about. It’s a good place to be.”
After a week of workshops, tours and competitions, the students returned home victorious and energized for the year ahead.
With the highest scores representatives of the school have ever received, multiple students were not only recipients of national gold medals but also finished in the 96th to 97th percentile of attendees nationwide.
“I think that all the kids who went took it very seriously and didn’t think of it as just another trip,” Mischke said. “They worked hard and they practiced. They knew what they were going to say and they were ready.”
Of the 14 attendees only five had competed in the national competition in years past and for one of the “freshmen” to the competition, it was especially special as it was his senior year and last chance to shine.
Austen Peery had never qualified for nationals before and in a final send off to his high school days brought home a gold medal in Teach and Train, no doubt reassuring as he plans to study elementary education in college.
Each student contributed financially to the trip, but Mischke said the majority of the costs were covered by the generosity of the community.
“The kids had to ship their projects before we left and sometimes it takes $85-100 just to ship it,” Mischke said. “Recently some of the girls were in at the store getting ready to ship it and a man from Sheridan heard their story and he volunteered to pay their freight. He was impressed with what they wanted to do with their lives and for their community so he wanted to do that for them.”
Mischke said parents also stepped up to help fundraise and a dinner for the governor at Bradford Brinton Museum was catered by the culinary students, with all proceeds from the 250 people they served benefitting the trip.
Looking forward to next year, the students have started to concoct plans to increase membership and add new activities including attending cluster meetings and regional meetings of students Tongue River has not previously participated in.
But the students were putting these plans in place without their fearless leader, Mischke.
Mischke joined Sheridan County School District 1 in 1996 and has become a household name in recent years thanks to her many accolades and commitment to the student body.
Most recently, Mischke was highlighted in bittersweet news revealing that she had both been named the district’s teacher of the year and also announced her retirement.
TRHS principal Mark Fritz voiced the opinion that replacing Mischke would be nearly impossible, and it turns out he was more correct than he had hoped.
After the district could not find someone to run the well-respected program Mischke had developed, the administration asked her to return and she accepted.
Mischke has been rehired and after experiencing what she refers to as her summer of retirement — though with the continued amount of work she put in, it likely did not appear as retirement to others — she will again be at the reigns of one of the most popular programs at Tongue River for the 2014-2015 school year.
Understandably thrilled students are excited to have their teacher return, but Mischke said she has not had a free moment to think about next year and will technically remain retired until the school year begins.
Next year’s program is already shaping up to be bigger and better than ever.
• Casey Caywood and Eryn Aksamit, represented Wyoming as state officer Austin Peery, gold, Teach and Train
• Courtney Jolovich, gold, Interpersonal, Communications
• Kylee Knobloch and Taylor Holiday, gold, Focus on Children
• Libby Heimbaugh and Heidi Henderson, gold, illustrated talk
• Austen Scammon, gold, job interview
• Sarah Rawlings and Amanda Buller, silver, chapter in review event
• Natasha and Natalie Stephens, silver, chapter service
• Kendall Bilodeau, bronze, fashion construction