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Bringing home the gold

Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe Worthington High School senior Maggie Malathip poses Tuesday in front of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America display at the school. Malathip won a gold medal this summer in national FCCLA competition.

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington High School (WHS) senior Maggie Malathip had a fruitful trip to Orlando, Fla., in early July.

In fact, Malathip's first sojourn in the Sunshine State earned her a gold medal in the national Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) contest, in which she competed in the Chapter Showcase Manual category with her project titled, "It's a Treat to be in FCCLA."

"I've been involved in FCCLA since middle school, where Mrs. Henkels is the adviser," said Malathip. "When I got to high school, I wanted to join clubs, and I thought it would be a great idea to join FCCLA."

That has proven to be a sound decision for Malathip, who has excelled in the FCCLA organization and will this year serve as FCCLA secretary for both the WHS chapter and the Region 3 organization.

"Region 3 for FCCLA covers most of Minnesota's southwest corner, and it's a pretty strong region for this program," said Bonnie Bents, the WHS FCCLA chapter adviser.

Bents accompanied Malathip to Florida for the July 7-11 national FCCLA convention, where Bents said approximately 6,000 students and advisers from all over the United States assembled.

"It's a big deal, and there were some really awesome speakers there talking about leadership," said Bents, a WHS family and consumer science teacher. "The gold award Maggie received is the highest you can get. We had two other current seniors who were alternates for the national competition -- Dana Kingery in Job Interview and Anny Sompamitwong in Recycle/Redesign."

The WHS FCCLA club is an extension of the FCCLA class Bents teaches, though she stresses not all students who take the class become FCCLA members.

"Maggie has been involved in FCCLA since her freshman year, and she is one of a big group of seniors who is involved," said Bents, noting that more than 20 WHS students are active in FCCLA. "I met them all as freshmen, and I will be sad to see them go."

Malathip moved to Worthington from California at about age 1 with her parents, Lane and Sy Malathip. Her parents emigrated to the U.S. from Laos, and Malathip has three younger siblings.

"I'm immensely blessed to be growing up in Worthington," expressed Malathip, who plans to study either psychology or mass communications at a state university after graduating from high school next spring. "I love our diversity and how everyone is familiar with the different cultures -- and we all get along pretty well.

"I like how I can experience what Hispanic or Caucasian people eat -- it's more like a big city in a little town -- and I can take that experience with diversity and bring it to college."

A class Bents teaches, called Teen Issues, is one Malathip lists among her favorites at WHS to date.

"We learned about how to become independent, we talked about teenage issues, multicultural dating and about our diversity," explained Malathip. "I liked how Mrs. Bents made it relate to us and our lives.

"Mrs. Bents is the sweetest thing ever and has been so encouraging," said Malathip. "She supports each of her students like we are her own kids and has helped us through a lot."

That support included urging Malathip to choose the FCCLA competition category that took her all the way to the national competition.

"I asked for her advice, and she said I would do well in Chapter Showcase Manual because I would have to tell the judges about the book I put together, and she knew I was a good speaker," said Malathip.

"It turned out she knew me better than I thought."

In Florida, Malathip's competition came down to a single morning when she had to present her speech and explain her project in 15 minutes or less before a panel of judges.

"I had to make a big book about all the events and activities our FCCLA chapter had done over the course of the previous year and include pictures of the whole group," said Malathip.

Malathip has enjoyed other activities at WHS, such as Drama Club (she was in the fall play as a freshman), AOK club and Business Professionals of America (BPA). She is the WHS BPA vice president this year and has placed well in past BPA regional contests, in addition to her FCCLA duties and part-time work in the Hy-Vee produce section.

Her advice to incoming WHS freshmen is, "Get involved in as much as possible," Malathip urged. "Soak up high school and get involved, because you'll have more fun, more opportunities, and you'll grow, learn and become a better speaker."

Bents and Malathip are grateful for the support of several local sponsors that helped make possible Malathip's journey to Florida. They are Smith Trucking, Worthington Taxi Company, Optimist Club and Hy-Vee.

"I would also like to thank Pizza Ranch for their tip night," added Malathip, whose time in Florida allowed for short excursions to Disney's Magic Kingdom, Sea World and Universal Studios.

Summarized Malathip of her national FCCLA experience, "It was one memorable summer for me."