LAKE PLACID - The American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) brought in the new year with an anniversary worth celebrating. Over 200 Family and Consumer Science (FACS) professionals and students from across the United States recently convened at the High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid to celebrate their 100th year.
There, in the place where Ellen H. Richards laid the foundation for home economics with a small group of her peers, they celebrated the strides that the AAFCS has taken and explored their options for sustainability in the future. The historical group, deemed Lake Placid Club and sponsored by Annie Godfrey Dewey and Melvil Dewey led to the birth of the American Home Economics Association in 1909, which is today the AAFCS.
There was an air of change at the Centennial Celebration in Lake Placid that acknowledged the places that the AAFCS has been and where the current professional and student members alike hope it can go.
"FACS is a forward thinking profession. We take on challenges and change with proactive strategies. Consumers will always need the applied academics and technical skills to manage their personal, family, career and community lives," said AAFCS member and Centennial chair Shirley Ware.
This exclamation on adapting has led the AAFCS into the 21st century, despite those who think that it no longer holds value in today's school systems. Barbara A. Woods, who holds a Ph.D. in FACS and teaches at East Carolina University acknowledged the challenges her field faces.
"With the focus of education reform and accountability on math and reading, FACS education has been increasingly marginalized and experienced serious decline in schools," she said.
Woods, however, conducted research to prove such doubt to be inaccurate.
"There is strong evidence supporting the need for such education, expressly intended to nurture human development and improve quality of life for individuals, families, and communities," she said.
Many believe that FACS appeals to and is necessary for the most basic of successes.
"I think family and consumer sciences education will continue to impact students as it helps prepare them for life. Schools need to continue to support FACS departments," said Leslie Schafer, a SUNY Oneonta freshman studying to be a family and consumer science teacher.
Experts in FACS content areas and students studying it at all levels of education arrived in Lake Placid to celebrate their work with live reenactments of Lake Placid Club porch conversations, theatrical presentations by Pam Swallow - niece of Ellen H. Richards, and to light a Betty Lamp for the future of AAFCS.
The Betty Lamp, derived from the German word "besser", meaning "to make better", is the symbol of the AAFCS and best signifies their mission - to improve quality of life.
In the Olympic spirit of the region, a torch was lit and passed through the hands of AAFCS members representing its many facets. The ceremony was sponsored by Olympic Regional Development.
High school student and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) state officer Logan Kempney held the honor of using the torch to light the Betty Lamp. He expressed pride in the success of FACS while voicing his concern.
"Not enough membership could bring this organization to a sudden halt. In the future of FCCLA and FACS I hope to see people's dreams become realities, not remain dreams," he said.
While celebrating, members of the Centennial Conference took a roll in securing the sustainability of the AAFCS. Workshops and presentations touched on how FACS can adapt to changing times. One such presentation proved FACS keep up with the modern idea of "being green".
"We aren't just cooking and sewing, we are on the cutting edge of green and we can prove it," said presenter Ramona Hatch.
She claimed that living with respect for the environment is not a new concept to FACS professionals - Ellen H. Richards pioneered the concept over a century ago. As a retired FACS teacher, Hatch spoke to the importance of encouraging students to be eco-friendly and teaching the science and economics that supports such things as natural cleaners, energy conservation, recycling and much more.
"We have to honor our past and plant the seeds of our future," said national AAFCS President Marilyn Swierk in her keynote address to the conference.
She encouraged members to "keep the FACS torch burning" in the years to come.
The AAFCS has revised its key issues regarding lifestyle, careers, relationships and much more in order to be relevant in an era of technology and advancement.
"Technology is affecting families in ways we don't even understand yet. Students, families and communities across the nation will continue to benefit from FACS," said Ware.
In its 100 years of existence, the AAFCS has proved that it can withstand change, be effective and continue to influence lives for years to come. The Centennial Celebration in Lake Placid gave FACS professionals a push to overcome the challenges that face the AAFCS in the future.
"We have gone through ups and downs, but history has taught us that our field will always be needed - people will always want a better quality of life. We may address different issues in different ways, but the basic need for what we do will always be there," said Swierk.