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Westmoreland culinary arts students to compete in California

Several teens have spent much of their summer vacation preparing for the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America 2011 National Leadership Conference.

Six Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center's culinary arts students qualified for the national event that begins Friday in Anaheim, Calif. Three of those students are from the Mt. Pleasant and Southmoreland school districts: Latoshia Higgin, 18, of Mt. Pleasant Township, Caitlyn Smith, 17, of Scottdale and Danielle Truxel, 18, of Mt. Pleasant Township.

The students qualified by winning silver medals in their competitions at the FCCLA Star Events Pennsylvania State Competition held in Hershey in the spring.

This is the fifth year that students from the culinary arts department have competed in the state competition. Christie Parks, CWCTC culinary arts instructor, said some of her students have qualified for the national competition each of the five years.

"I'm very proud of the fact that they work well in teams, are very creative, are very goal-oriented and strive to win gold, so they are working very hard behind the scenes," Parks said.

Students and the school have worked together to pay for the trip. Students held fundraisers to cover the money needed for their part of the expenses.

Smith and Higgin, along with classmate Nico Williams of Penn Trafford, won silver at the state level in the tourism, hospitality and recreation competition. For the competition, the trio had to remodel a hypothetical restaurant. They used the dining area of the department at the school as the model, redesigned several tables prior to the competition and took photos of the work.

"We had to create a website for it, too, along with a written proposal. We had to take three other restaurants and compare our restaurant to theirs," Higgin said. "For nationals, we had to redo our entire binder over the summer. We had to start from scratch."

This is Truxel's second trip to nationals. Last year, she won silver for her Chapter Service Project Display. This year, she teamed up with Ashley Fine, 17, and Sheila Montgomery, 18, both of Hempfield, to compete in Food Innovations. For their competition, the group had to prepare a healthy meal. They chose to do a Thanksgiving Day meal. Prior to the state competition, the group prepared the meal for a focus group, who filled out questionnaires about the meal. The students took the feedback and adjusted the meal accordingly. They submitted the information about the meal, as well as a model of the meal made out of fondant, to the state competition.

"For nationals, we will have a better board and improve the quality of everything. We will research more and get a better speech," Truxel said.

Truxel is looking forward to going to the national competition again.

"I can't wait to go meet the other people from other cultures. I can't wait to trade pins. Each state gets a pin, and you trade pins so you want to try to get all 50 pins," she said.

Another local winner at the state level was Tylor Heathcock, 18, of Everson who won bronze in the Job Interview Competition. Although he finished in the top three, he will not be going to Anaheim since that competition is not offered at the national level.

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