An experience earlier this week reminded me creativity and encouragement are an inspirational combination.

Hawkeye Community College hosted Family, Career and Community Leaders of America District III student competition events on Tuesday. I was an evaluator, and it didn’t take long for the students, teachers and organization to impress me.

FCCLA is a national, nonprofit career and technical association for students taking family and consumer sciences courses. STAR events promote FCCLA’s mission to “focus on the multiple roles of family member, wage earner and community leader.” The competitive categories emphasize things like character development, creative and critical thinking and career preparation.

The events are open to middle and high school students. The “junior” category includes sixth- through ninth-graders. Students in 10th through 12th grades compete in the “seniors” and “occupational” categories.

I was one of three evaluators for the “Recycle and Redesign,” an individual event that challenges students to apply skills learned in FCS courses.

To compete, students create a prototype that recycles a used fashion, home or other post-consumer item. According to the rules, “participants must create a brand new product, not simply embellish an old one.” They can use additional materials to augment their design.

Students also must create a display and presentation that describes the project and background.

“For many of these students, this is their first time competing, and for some of them, their first time presenting,” said Julie Gray during the judges orientation.

Gray is District III STAR events coordinator and West Marshall FCCLA adviser. She encouraged judges to be kind and encouraging when interacting with the student presenters.

That was easy. The students’ presentations showed ingenuity and strong work ethic.

Ashton Lamborn, a high school student from Nashua-Plainfield, made a working flashlight from a pop bottle, old chip bag and other elements.

Meanwhile, Olivia Butt of Iowa Falls-Alden High School deconstructed an old band uniform and refashioned the elements into an retail-quality tote bag. She even used an old T-shirt to line it.

Meanwhile, Jasmyne Alantz, a middle-schooler from Iowa Falls-Alden FCCLA, presented “Newsie,” a beautiful dress made entirely from recycled newspapers and embellished with pieces of old CDs.

Alantz told us she competed to improve her speaking skills. She shared that 28 percent of trash in landfills comes from paper products, most of which can be recycled.

“I realized a lot of us take for granted all the things we have,” she added. “It made me look at my own stuff. I have so many clothes, and I really don’t need all I have. I went through my closet and donated a lot of things.”

There were challenges in bringing her design to reality, said Alantz. She struggled to create workable templates for the dress pieces and to ensure her CD pieces were of uniform size.

What made her stick with it?

“I wasn’t going to give up,” Alantz told us. “I started this, and I was determined to finish it.”

Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at