Culinary arts students from three Aiken County schools participated in the FCCLA National Leadership Conference’s contests in San Antonio, Texas.

All of them returned with awards.

FCCLA is the acronym for Family Career and Community Leaders of America. The participating students came from Aiken High School, South Aiken High School and Wagener-Salley High School. The program is a great opportunity for growth for all of the students, said Aiken High School teacher Jean Gorthy.

AHS students Marcello Lambert and Chris Green earned silver medals by creating a restaurant concept with a menu and website. Molly Gordon, Aiken High FCCLA president, also received a silver medal for her chapter in review portfolio. Rachel Chandler earned a bronze medal for developing and teaching a lesson titled “Safety is Fun” for the Focus on Children category.

Three recent South Aiken graduates – Nick Sasso, Parshaad Reed and Eddie Pajerski – took a silver award as a team for preparing a meal within an hour. Their instructor is Paula Harmon.

Wagener-Salley teacher Mary Mason accompanied students Shelby Bell and Preston Rodgers. The young women received a silver award for their chapter website.

ProStart is a component of the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation. Gorthy was especially proud of the efforts of Lambert and Green.

“It’s a reflection of what they learned in the ProStart program,” Gorthy said. “The fact they did as well as they did – making a high-level silver medal – feels like a good reflection on our ProStart program.”

The three South Aiken students are headed to college to delve further into the culinary field.

“I’m just thrilled they had this opportunity,” Harmon said. “They won the silver, but there was no other higher category. There’s such high standards at the (nationals).”

Gordon was named the FCCLA president at Aiken High as a sophomore and will return in that role for her junior year. She had received three gold medals at the state conference. Gordon competed in a national junior competition as a freshman, but this month, there were about 15 times as many students involved in the senior division in which she participated.

“I felt very confident doing another portfolio,” she said “It’s all about advocating the good things we do here in a small town.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.