Although I love reading, talking, and teaching about Personal Finance, I thought it might be more interesting for business teachers to read about a high school club I have developed over the last three years. I must say the origin of creating a Future Business Leaders of America Club was not mine but a student’s. I think the student’s original intention was to become president of the club and use it as a resume builder to get into a business school in college. Not a bad idea for a sophomore!
When the club started I did a little research on FBLA and was thinking “WOW! This is like having another prep”. Of course, I decided to try and see if we can make it work. Every student had to join the national organization which required a national and state fee. We were then allowed to attend a Leadership Conference in our state which turned out to be a good learning experience for the boys but there were more costs involved (I’m not sure why teachers had to pay to attend the conference, too). Then I did a deep dive into how FBLA works. You have to raise funds for travel to in and out-of-state events during the school year and summer. Also, you have to run certain classes in your school in order for your students to compete in the competitions. Being in a private all boys 9-12 high school, we are not allowed to raise those sums of money as it would compete with the mission of the advancement office. Also, our students commute from various communities approximately within a 50-minute radius so it’s difficult to get them together outside of school time. After two years of trying to be involved with FBLA it just didn’t make sense; if we couldn’t compete or attend national events, we couldn’t justify the work and money involved with belonging in the FBLA.
On to the next idea! One of my sophomores did some research and wanted to try being part of DECA instead of FBLA. The organizations run much like each other but with some differences. This really never gained any footing and the students were overwhelmed with everything else they do in school to be able to invest their time appropriately. I find that many of my students are in too many clubs and are spread thin; they all think by having more on their resume, it looks better. In addition, we found DECA is much like FBLA and just requires things that aren’t conducive for a private school.
What to do? With roughly 35 students wanting to be in a business-type club, I needed to improvise. I decided to just keep the club going and name it the Business Club (@MSJBiz_Club). We meet every other week. I charge every member a minimal fee ($10) and our school donates some funds when needed. Some of the areas we focus upon are: writing resumes, developing their brand (Developing a Personal Brand article by Henry P. Hynoski, Jr. Business Education Forum, April 2018), 30-second elevator pitches, interviewing skills, setting up a LinkedIn account, speakers from different professions, the H&R Block Budget Challenge, The Stock Market Game, raising money for the school through a phone-a-thon, design think project, and externships.
Because I attended the 2018 NGPF Fellowship program, I got a chance to spend a morning at Stanford learning about “design think.” I plan on doing the spaghetti challenge in order for the students to understand the thought process and how we will proceed on a project that always concerns our students – the cafeteria at Mt. St. Joseph!
But the crown jewel of the club is externships. Last year I came up with an idea to have every Junior do an “externship” in the summer before their senior year. The goal was to get each student a one day, non-paid experience in the field they plan on pursuing in college. It took a little work contacting alumni, friends, or friends of a friend to place them with a business for a day (I recommend using Twitter and LinkedIn). I make the students take full responsibility once I make the contact and get the ok. The student then communicates with their host about the externship, sends a resume, and follows up with a handwritten thank you letter. Some examples of the types of companies students have received externships with are: TRowePrice computer and finance departments, an engineering company, an architecture company, Choice Hotels headquarters, MedStar Orthopedics, RBC Capital, WFAN radio station, and ThinkStack an entrepreneurial company. All the students returned ecstatic about their experiences, and it fostered a large amount of publicity for the school because we used it in our print and social media. The downside (which to many who don’t understand the added workload consider an upside) is the club has grown to 70+ members. However, students must attend ⅔ of the meetings in order to remain a member and be noted on a student transcript.
A new fun activity is a once a month donut and drinks or “Waffle Wednesday” with drinks. I provide the goodies in my room starting one hour before classes start. The students work on any of the projects we are doing, homework, or come and talk and listen to some music. It’s a great time just to talk about new ideas and meet other students; I feel this cultivates an expectation of how productive professionals network and create collegial work environments.
About the blogger: Julius Prezelski began his career in the business world but soon transitioned into teaching where he could combine his passions for business and basketball. Inspired by Beth Kobliner’s, “Get a Financial Life”, he developed a business curriculum at DeMatha Catholic High School that evolved into multiple sections of Business Law and both standard and honors level Personal Finance Courses at Mt. St. Joseph’s. Julius believes that Personal Finance courses should be mandatory for high school and college curriculums and that gaining financial knowledge can be life-changing. In addition to teaching, he moderates the school’s Business Club and Personal Finance Challenge Team. Julius can be reached at email@example.com or @JPrezelski.