Parissa Sharifyazdi says she used to be shy. “Used to” serves as the key phrase.
The North Garner Middle School student has worked on a handful of initiatives, given a speech to more than 500 students and earned a statewide office in a student career and leadership organization.
So the shyness has melted somewhat.
She gives a good share of the credit to that for the organization Family Career and Community Leaders of America. So does her mother.
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“She’s really come out of her shell,” Donna Sharifyazdi said.
The FCCLA, a nonprofit career and technical student organization, promotes an array of skills. It has a primarily focus on leadership skills and community service through family and consumer sciences education; the organization evolved from Future Homemakers of America into its more career-comprehensive form.
Students in the organization – there are about 65 at North Garner that pay national dues – put together projects that help their communities. Sharifyazdi, for example, coordinated an anti-bullying campaign.
“One of my really close friends was getting bullied. I kind of thought, ‘Hey, it would be a good project,’” Sharifyazdi said.
She took the idea and ran with it. She spoke at an elementary school, and put together a video showing a day in the life of a girl getting bullied. She said she tried to set an example for younger kids who look up to older ones, and in a group not yet experiencing the problems of bullying.
“Parissa is very motivated and determined,” said Nicole Mas, who runs the organization at North Garner. “She can work independently. You don’t have to tell her step-by-step what to do. She can take an idea and run with it. And she’s also very mature for her age.”
Mas has seen other students in the North Garner chapter work to raise environmental awareness and organize cleanups, talk about self-esteem at Timber Drive Elementary and organize toy drives among other projects.
Bigger than one school
The FCCLA also has a broader leadership structure. At the high school level, each of the state’s nine districts has an elective represented to the state board. Only one middle school student statewide receives the honor.
Peers elected Sharifyazdi as the district’s candidate on the heels of a campaign speech given in Johnston County at a fall leadership meeting for the district. She gave the speech again during an April 15-17 state conference in Greensboro, and she was voted the middle school representative for the state.
Sharifyazdi, as well as 16 others whose projects scored well in Greensboro, will present their projects in Nashville, Tenn., over a weeklong national convention running from July 5-11.
Mas, a second-year teacher at North Garner, has considerable experience with FCCLA. She joined it in her high school years in New Jersey. After trekking to East Carolina University for college, she started up a chapter at her first school, Southeast Raleigh High School. She left after just one year, but the club remains, she said. The national organizations’ website says it has over 200,000 members in 6,500 chapters.
On the community side, Mas herself has pitched in at Interact, the battered women’s shelter, as well, and made Christmas stockings with the Garner chapter of Veterans for Foreign Wars.
At North Garner, she also teaches a class called ‘exploring life skills.’
“It’s really about developing life skills and getting ready for the future,” she said of the FCCLA, which includes other life skills such as resume-building, family finance management and job shadowing. “A lot of the skills in my class carry over into FCCLA. At one point you are going to be part of a community and have a job.”