All the way to nationals

Thursday, April 30, 2009
Salem FBLA Club Photo by Amanda Powers

It often happens, a high school student graduates and is quickly faced with a rude awakening as they enter the adult world. The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is a club that most area schools offer, and its goal is to prepare students so that the dose of reality they are hit with isn't so rude.

The FBLA has many different categories in which they coach students not only to compete in, but to use in real situations. For example, there is a public speaking category where, in competition, they are often asked to write an essay and present it in front a crowd, including judges. In the same category, students are also asked to give an impromptu presentation.

There are also categories such as computers and programs, job interviewing and several other work force related subjects.

Many of these students compete in FBLA competitions. There is a district competition, in which only schools from the same district compete. If a student wins the district competition in their category they advance to the state competition.

The state competition is much larger, which means several more contestants in each category. Within Arkansas there are over 13,000 students in more than 300 high school chapters in FBLA and several of these students compete. If a student places in the top two in their competition they are eligible for the national competition.

Making it to nationals requires much work and discipline, but it is also a great honor. In our area, quite impressively, three schools had students earn a spot in the national competition.

Salem High School has five students who qualified. Their instructor, Alanna Russell, said she is very proud of all of her students and excited for the ones who will be attending the national conference. The Salem students who qualified are; Ed Crews, Carson York, Stephanie McCullough, Colin Smith and Matt Langevin.

"This is one of the only clubs I was involved in to any extent," Crews said. "So it has helped me in my management skills."

Smith who competed in public speaking said, "FBLA has helped me with public speaking -- in front of large crowds." He and Russell also agreed that FBLA help teach that there are some tests that can't be studied for, which is something learned in the "real world" very quickly.

Viola High School's FBLA instructor, Loyola Cain, received the honor of Arkansas FBLA Outstanding Local Adviser for 2008-2009. She has instructed FBLA at Viola for 28 years. Cain will be attending the national conference due to this award. One of her students, Elisabeth Collins, who is a senior this year, also qualified.

Collins placed second in computer applications at the state competition qualifying her for nationals. "We are very proud to have Elisabeth (Collins) representing us this year," Viola Superintendent John May said. "Miss Cain is a great instructor and her award was much deserved -- she does a great job of using FBLA to prepare our students for their after high school experience."

The FBLA Instructor at Melbourne High School, Kathy Adams, was pleased to announce that three of her students qualified for nationals as well. Kaylee Ables was installed as the District VI State Vice-President for 2009-2010. Ables' position as a district officer requires her to attend nationals.

Olevia Wetzel placed first in the word processing competition at state. Landon Downing placed fourth in job interview, and Blake Smith placed first in impromptu speaking.

Wetzel, Downing and Smith will all be attending nationals for their competition performances. Wetzel and Smith will be competing in their events at the national level.

Melbourne Superintendent Gerald Cooper said, "I love it when I see young people have academic achievement -- or any achievement for that matter."

While Izard County Consolidated did not have any students qualify for nationals their instructor, Hugh Chapman, said he is very proud of all of them. Chapman said all of his students worked very hard this year.

The National FBLA Conference will be held June 23-29 in Anaheim, Calif. All of the instructors who had students qualify for nationals will be attending the conference with their students.

According to Russell, each student has to pay $1,000 to attend, not including spending money. While Russell thought all of her students were going to be able to pay the $1,000 fee by the deadline of May 1, many of the parents who paid the money are hoping some of it can be earned back through donations and fundraisers.

Since the fee is due within such a short time after the students qualify, none of the schools have had a chance to plan any fundraisers yet, but all have said they are planning something.

Donations are also accepted to support these students in their success. Any of the instructors can be reached with questions about this event by leaving a message at their high school office: Salem Instructor Alanna Russell -- 870-895-3293; Viola Instructor Loyola Cain -- 870-458-2213; Melbourne Instructor Kathy Adams -- 870-368-4345.

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