Winters FCS, CFCLA & Cheer
Tami Belew Richards is the FCS teacher, FCCLA adviser and the Cheerleading coach at Winters High School. She wear a lot of hats, but her hard work and dedication are paying off, particularly in the FCS/FCCLA area, “I’ve been here 6 years. When I came here, the program had been stalled a year. In my first year, we had 50 kids. Now, we have 189 kids in the program.”
That is all that you will hear Richards say about herself as the program leader. For Richards and new adviser/FCS teacher, Claire LaRue, everything is about the students and the program. The program, under the careful guidance of Richards, is expanding, “We have a new block schedule. Now we get the kids for 90 minutes rather than 45 minutes. On Fridays we have a 3-hour advanced culinary class.”
Richards says that the students are involved in many of the Blizzards’ events, “Our kids cook the Veterans Pancake dinner every year. Last year we cooked for the Distinguished Alumni.” The kids aren’t just throwing something together to feed a few dozen people, “Our kids are cooking great meals. They cooked Chicken Cordon Bleu.” The students also meet to cook for school board meetings and other events, such as the Winters Basketball Tournament, “The kids showed up every morning at 6 a.m. to make breakfast tacos. The tacos were made from homemade tortillas. They didn’t finish until 9 or 10 p.m.” The Winters Dove Fest is another annual event that the students participate it. With the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, the students delivered the annual BBQ lunch to the cars as people drove up.
Richards points out that most of the students are part of several Winters’ programs, “We share these kids with athletics, our Ag program and our business program.” The high school students, in turn, mentor the students at the elementary school, giving them a jump start on all that FCS/FCCLA offer.
LaRue teaches Principles of Human Services, Intro to FCS, Money matters and Career Exploration. She’s helped to ease Richards’ load with the new block time and increased number of students in the program. FCS starts in 7th grade, “Those students have 3 classes of culinary instruction, and they’re popular classes.”
One of their students, Laken Green, is also a regional officer. The school took 36 kids to Waco to compete at Region in 2019.
With the beginning of the school year, Richards says that the students currently study safety and sanitizing, “Next, we’ll study knife skills. Whatever we cut up during knife skills instruction, we’ll put into a soup.”
The students compete in UIL in Career Explorations, among other categories, “They compete from 1A-6A, Region 2. We compete against Waco, Stephenville and Fort Worth, among others.” The amount of time preparing for the events can differ by school, “We’re competing against some schools where kids just have to do FCS/FCCLA all day, with no core classes. We also compete against culinary schools.”
The students compete in STAR events (Students Taking Action with Recognition). Richards says that they enjoy watching the kids compete, “It’s wonderful to see our kids onstage at those STAR events. At each event they have to give a 10-15 minute presentation and they are required to have a portfolio. Six of our students placed in the STAR event. We had more kids place at regional than ever before. Several of our students won gold and silver medals.” In all, the students won 13 gold medals and 3 silver medals. The students won 2nd place in 2 events, 3rd place in 3 events and 1 student placed 4th.
The students start preparing for the contests on the first day of school. They will compete from the end of February into March. Richards says that the competitions are demanding, “The kids check in to the event at 8 a.m. and wait to be called for their presentation. They might not be called until 5 p.m.” The state competition is always in Dallas.
The students get a treat on the way home, “On Saturday we will stop and have a very nice meal. All cell phones have to be put away and we all sit and visit while we eat. When we go to state competitions, we try to take the kids to a nice restaurant. In 2018 we stopped at a nice Italian restaurant on the way home. One place that we like to stop is Mary’s Cafe’ in Strawn, Texas.
The FCCLA students do more than just help out around Winters. Richards said that they recently helped a student from another school, “A football player in Eldorado had his home burn down. The officers of FCCLA bought items for a Care package for the player.” The FCCLA students presented the Care package to the student at halftime of the Winters/Eldorado game.
The program receives strong support from the school district, “Our new superintendent decided that our kitchen needed renovation. It had been the same since 1970. This was the first time that it has been renovated. They sanded the cabinets, painted them, installed new counter tops and we got some new equipment, such as stand-mixers.”
Richards is a Winters alum, having graduated in 1989. The Winters’ colors run deep in her veins as she is involved in a myriad of activities, one of which is being the cheerleader coach, “We have 10 cheerleaders who practice 4-6 hours per week.” The mascot, junior McAelyn Beushel, was selected as an All American mascot at cheer camp. There were 4 Winters cheerleaders selected as All Americans at camp: Senior Querstin Lara; sophomore Serenity Luera; sophomore Ashlyn Richards; freshman Kacie Lindley.
Being a cheerleader on the sidelines of a west Texas football game in August heat can be daunting. Being the person wearing the mascot costume requires resolve and additional precautions, “The mascot puts on an ice pack vest. It gets hot in that costume, especially when the temperature is over 100 degrees.”
After the Friday night lights have faded as fall turns to winter, the FCCLA/FCS students will still be preparing for the February and March competitions. Even many of the football players, including quarterback Alex Salas, will be continuing to contribute to the rise of the FCS program. The cheerleaders and mascot will be out at the basketball games and other sporting events as they’ll continue to lead the fans in support of their Blizzards throughout the school year.