CRESWELL – Creswell Middle School sent three students to Atlanta, Georgia in late June to compete in the National Future Business Leaders of America Leadership (FBLA) Conference. FBLA is an American student organization that helps youth become involved in, and prepared for, a future in the business world. This year was the first time CMS had an FBLA program, and despite starting the program six months into the year, CMS took home third place for the National Merit Award.
“One of the tasks that they have is the merit program. Basically, it gives you a 12-month calendar of things that your FBLA chapter should be doing, just to keep you on track for preparing your students for competing, but we started mid-year,” Creswell Middle School Principal Julie Johansen said. “We not only tried to do as many as we could in the recommended month, but we also went back and did tasks for the months we didn’t have a club. Long story short, we ended up the top middle school at the state level for a merit award that went on to the national level, and we ended up getting third, which is pretty incredible.”
CMS also took home second in the nation for its FBLA Middle School Service Project for their fundraising efforts during the March of Dimes, while Johansen took home an award for FBLA Administrator of the Year in Oregon.
Kendra Anderson, a social studies teacher at CMS, was the one who initially had the idea for CMS to start an FBLA chapter, with 19 students competing at the state tournament. Unfortunately, because of trip expenses, only three students were able to attend nationals: Owen Moran, Rees Miller and Chloe Miller.
Moran, 14, grabbed first place in Oregon in financial literacy and second in exploring economics. At Nationals he took home second place in the entire country.
“I didn’t expect that I would qualify for Nationals at all. I did way better than I thought I did,” Moran said. “Just going up on stage, it was a lot because they called up the people in the top 10. You don’t know what place you got, everybody walks on stage together. Then one by one they call you based on your place.”
According to Moran, the financial literacy test involved questions about balancing checkbooks, avoiding identity theft, and investing money. The conference also hosted multiple workshops and allowed ample time for sightseeing in Atlanta.
“I think one of my favorite parts of the trip was just the sightseeing. There’s so much to see and do there,” Moran said. “Just a couple blocks away from our hotel there was this huge park commemorating the Olympics that we walked through. And we rode this giant ferris wheel that we could see half the city from.”
Moran’s mom, Jill, was the official chaperone of the trip. She said the success of the program is in large part because of the efforts of the CMS leaders.
“I have been so impressed with Ms. Anderson and Ms. Johansen’s commitment to giving the students this opportunity. I’ve seen these kids grow in confidence so much,” she said. “These kids are going to be so much more successful going into high school because of the opportunities that they’ve been given. And now those kids are interested in business opportunities, and there’s so much more that they’ve seen they can already do.”
For Johansen, the group being so successful in its infancy is a great sign moving forward, and it gives students another area to strive for greatness and knowledge in.
“It was just very exciting for kids to be there and be surrounded by other likeminded people. … Sometimes it’s hard to showcase everyone’s strengths. This is just one more way for kids to feel like they matter and be part of a team and be recognized for their accomplishments,” she said. “And honestly, all of these things are life skills. Being business savvy, even if you don’t go to college for that, is something that will help you in your own finances. I think they’re just good skills for kids to start thinking about.”