Cattaraugus Teen Wins National Honors

LITTLE VALLEY – Tiffany Rolfe, a 2013 graduate of Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School, represented her school, her county and her state with the greatest distinction during last summer’s national FCCLA competition. Remarkably, she was the only New York state contestant to bring home gold from the annual STAR event contest.

For the uninitiated, FCCLA stands for Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. It’s an updated and more comprehensive version of the former Future Homemakers and Future Farmers of America. The modernized organization concentrates on preparing its members to take the initiative in whatever future they choose for themselves. Its motto is: “The Ultimate Leadership Experience,” and according to Tiffany, that’s exactly what it provides.

Since self-improvement and highly developed leadership skills form the basis of the program, the STAR events are specifically designed to promote and test those qualities. Tiffany appears to have developed a talent for excellence in these competitive contests.

Of course, as she explained, she’s been practicing- and often competing – in STAR events since she was in sixth grade. That’s when she first joined FCCLA, which was led at the time by local teacher Laura Land, who has since retired.

“Mrs. Land really inspired me,” Tiffany said. “I wasn’t interested at all in going to any meetings, but she talked me into coming and finding out what they were about. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have continued – and I’d never have achieved what I did – or visited places all over the country, either.”

And Tiffany certainly did achieve things. As a sixth-grader, she won a junior gold at her first national competition in California. In seventh grade, she received a second national gold, this one in Florida. In ninth grade, she took a bronze at the Chicago nationals; and then, last summer in the Nashville national, one last gold to cap off her senior year of high school. Tiffany explained that a student can’t progress to the national level unless she wins at least a silver in state competition.

“Competition in the STAR events gets intense,” Tiffany said. “At the state level, each competitor does his or her presentation in a separate room with three judges. At the nationals, you still do your thing in front of three judges, but all of us, along with our judges, are kind of scattered around this huge hall. With everyone talking at the same time, it can be pretty hard to concentrate.”

When Tiffany wasn’t busy winning medals, she had other FCCLA matters on her mind. One year, she spent the summer at a leadership training camp.

“Another year, I was a New York state officer,” she said. “That took a lot of time, because it was hard for us to get together. Yet we were supposed to be planning the whole state meeting. It involved a lot of time on the Internet, plus quite a few weekends.”

“You know,” she added after a moment, “Mrs. Land and the FCCLA managed to bring me out of my comfort zone. They caused me to try things I never have tried before. For instance, I used to dread meeting new people. Now, I love it.”

“I hope our school keeps the FCCLA organization going,” Tiffany continued. “I know sports are a big deal, and for lots of kids, they’re great. But not everyone is suited to sports. The FCCLA can fill a big gap for kids like me and give them strong goals to work for. I know that’s what it did for me.”