From Founding a Chapter to 5th Place at Nationals: How FBLA increases opportunities and engagement with students

Are you looking for a new way to engage students in Business Education? Increase cross-collaboration between subjects? Provide students with opportunities to add skills and experiences to their resumes? Increase connections with the local community? FBLA can help!

Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is the premier student business organization, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) education association with a quarter million members and advisers in over 6,500 active middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. FBLA’s mission is to inspire and prepare students to become community-minded business leaders in a global society through relevant career preparation and leadership experiences.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Westfield High School’s Business Education Teachers, Nicole Stratton and Alison Sawyer, brainstormed ways to get students more engaged and ultimately more prepared for both college and career. We came up with a few ideas, but the one that stuck was to start a Future Business Leaders of America Chapter – what did we need to do?

  1. Become an Adviser – an adviser can be a school administrator, teacher or any faculty member
  2. Create an Executive Board and recruit at least five chapter members and pay (or fundraise) $15 per student
  3. Create Bylaws (exemplars provided)
  4. Create a Program of Work (a plan of the anticipated activities)
  5. Set Officer and General Meetings Dates/Agendas (samples provided)

There are a significant number and variety of business-related areas (70+) in which students can compete – from the expected: accounting and marketing to the less expected: public speaking and journalism. To recruit a variety of students, we kept the structure flexible in terms of expectations for meeting times and student interests. As this was our first year, our intent was simply to expand the horizons of what our students could see for their futures.

Our first stop…the Massachusetts State Leadership Conference (“SLC”) which was held at Bentley University on April 9th. By the registration deadline (March 15th), we recruited 17 Westfield High School students from sophomore to senior with a variety of interests to compete. To put the costs in perspective, we needed to raise a total of approximately $2,000 to cover registration fees and the bus – getting a bus from Westfield to Waltham was our largest expense of approximately $1,000. The 6 weeks leading up to the funding deadline was when the magic really started to happen – we needed to step up our fundraising game – from bake sales to looking for corporate sponsors. We were fortunate to have a great first President, Morgan Zabielksi, off to UMASS Dartmouth to study accounting – who was instrumental in working with Westfield Bank for that first $1,000 Sponsorship. With that experience under everyone’s belt, the students became much more focused in raising the remaining funds. This was done through smaller sponsorships from local businesses, donation nights at restaurants, and fundraising outside the local grocery store.

Once we were assured we had raised enough money to attend, we needed to make sure everyone had “Business Appropriate” attire to attend and compete at the SLC. This was another fantastic learning opportunity for students as most didn’t have a professional wardrobe so we worked with the students to review expectations, ensuring they had access to these clothes – some went to the local Savers and picked up great items, some borrowed, and some bought new – the group looked fantastic!

To our surprise and delight, we had students place in personal finance, accounting, job interview, health care administration, and public speaking – this allowed them the opportunity to compete at the national level. We had great learning opportunities on the way to nationals as well (to be included in a follow-up blog post).

The National Leadership Conference was better than expected – WHS students were only five of the more than 9,200 of America’s best and brightest high school students that traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to Elevate Their Futures as they competed for the opportunity to win more than $175,000 in cash awards. Eric Grigoryan from WHS competed in Digital Video Production and brought home fifth place with his video presentation on business owners overcoming failure and the value of having a FBLA Chapter in High Schools.

To see Grigoryan’s video, click here. Eric also vlogged about his 5-day adventure at the NLC.

Also at the NLC, Massachusetts’ own Eu Ro Wang from Newton South High School was elected FBLA’s National President. This presents a fantastic opportunity not only for Massachusetts, but also for the region to promote Business Education.

The idea might seem overwhelming, but it is absolutely worth starting your Chapter. If you have questions, you can reach out to FBLA’s State Advisers Ryan Paul and Blake Reynolds at advisers@mafbla.org or Alison Sawyer at asawyer@mbea-ma.org

If you’d like to learn more about FBLA you can visit their National Website at fbla.org and to learn more about getting involved in Massachusetts, visit mafbla.org.


About the blogger: Alison L. Sawyer CPA/CFF, CFE loves to teach accounting! Currently a Professor of Practice at Western New England University where she teaches various accounting courses including Introduction to Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Audit and Assurance Services, and Forensic Accounting. Prior to beginning her teaching career, she worked as an accountant both at a Big Four and for boutique firms where the primary focus of her practice was in areas such as fraud investigations, internal control reviews, AML and Compliance reviews, financial due diligence, and data analytics within various jurisdictions, including the UK, USA, Malaysia, Ghana, Singapore and Dubai. Connect with her on Twitter @alisonlsawyer

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