High school is a lot of things to a lot of people.
But for Julia Peake, a senior at Flowery Branch High School, it wasn’t much of anything at the beginning.
“I was the ultimate slacker kid,” she recently confessed.
That’s all changed, however, as Peake now serves as the national vice president of finance for Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America.
The nonprofit national career and technical organization for students in family and consumer sciences education has more than 160,000 members and 5,300-plus chapters across 49 states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Peake is the first national officer for any career and technical student organization in Hall County Schools history.
Peake said she experienced several detours in her educational journey, such as being pulled out of gifted classes and into special education courses because of a learning disability caused by sensory overload.
“I needed different parts of my brain stimulated,” she said.
By the time she arrived at Flowery Branch High, “I had no direction or idea of what I was going to do,” Peake said.
The Community Leaders of America group became a place of refuge, and something she could put on her resume, Peake said.
Stories of seniors from each Gainesville and Hall school are collected in this class of 2019 section.
Along the way she found support from her peers and mentors — including her mother, a teacher — at Flowery Branch.
“I just absolutely fell in love with FCCLA,” Peake said, adding that it has given her the confidence to chase her dreams.
Peake said the student organization can be a home to those students who may not fit in elsewhere in school, and they can develop communication and financial skills that allow them to find a job.
“We get a lot of kids that come from a lot of different home lives,” Peake said. “They find their own little family with FCCLA.”
Serving as a national officer has been about giving back, Peake said.
“The most beneficial thing I could do is give back to FCCLA what they gave to me,” she added.
Peake’s national term ends in June.
Getting here was a rigorous process, however, which included interviews, tests, essays, public speeches before thousands of people and more before she was selected.
It was a big jump, too, from starting as a regional state officer and moving directly to a national role.
Peake said her speech during the selection process was about how she had seen and experienced firsthand the student group’s impact on local communities through the development of young leaders.
“I’m just very, very blessed,” Peake said.
Peake said she has a job offer after graduation this year as an office production assistant for Hulu in Los Angeles, a difficult opportunity to pass up.
“My passion is film,” she said.
Producing is right up her alley, Peake added, because she loves budgeting and scheduling and keeping everything on track.
“I truly love the logistics of it all,” she said.