BRATTLEBORO >> After placing second and third for the past three years, the Windham Regional Career Center FBLA team took home the first place trophy last month.
"Each year I've really learned about leadership and I've really just gained confidence over the course of these three years," said Sarah Forrett, a senior at BUHS and the president of the local chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America. "I used to be that girl that would sit in the back of the classroom and dread being called on, but now I'm actually presenting in front of classrooms without being scared."
FBLA is the largest career student organization in the world and according to the "About" section of the national website, its mission is to "bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs." To earn the championship, an extensive 30 page document was prepared, submitted, and judged that details the 40 plus happenings in their chapter over the course of the year.
While the FBLA chapter spends much of its year developing professional skills, they also learned the value of community service in "giving back." The students made and donated 65 wool earmuffs to the Drop In Center this past year; collected over 56 pints of blood during blood drives, raised money for their Feed The Thousands team and raised awareness and money for The March of Dimes Foundation, which is a United States non-profit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies.
Although their local chapter of FBLA has about 70-plus members, 16 attended the state leadership conference held at Lake Morey from March 21 to 22. At states conference, students attended to better their leadership skills and enter at the chance of winning scholarship money. They competed in several different categories, such as mock job interview where they needed to present a cover letter and resume and answer question that reflected that paperwork. Other aspects of states involved agribusiness, accounting, business procedures, insurance and risk management. While these role playing activities did not earn them points toward their state title many of the students walked away with college scholarships. Junior and local chapter FBLA member, Emily Whitworth walked away with $4,000 in scholarship money, but more than the money she feels she has gained important relationships.
"It's like a family, you are with the officers hours on hours a week, and I see these guys more than I see a lot of my other friends," said Whitworth. "I didn't know Ethen Waterman (FBLA member) because he goes to Leland & Gray, but now he's one of my closest friends."
According to Maribeth Cornell, one of the local FBLA chapter advisors and business teachers at the WRCC, the students meet once a week before class to schedule their plethora of events and activities.
Cornell said she feels that high school sporting events receive more acknowledgements than academic accomplishments.
"I think it's a really big deal that this team won for an academic championship and if this had this been an athletic championship, everybody in town would have known about it," said Cornell.
Co-advisor Barbara Vinci felt that less people in the community are aware of FBLA and its mission and what it has accomplished. She also has similar feelings as Cornell regarding the attention sports receive versus academics.
"Nobody really knows about it, and I think that's where it's really falling through the cracks; there's just no knowledge about what these kids do," said Vinci.
Aside from winning a state title, their chapter also earned the Most Spirited Chapter award, which is a "just-for-fun" motivational event where members of each chapter introduce themselves to the other competitive teams with a cheer. They also placed first in the Chapter Scrapbook event that chronicles, in photographs and overviews, the activities their chapter participated in since the last spring leadership conference (2015). This documentation book was created by Molly Atamaniuk, FBLA member and senior from Brattleboro.
Prior to attending the conference, Cornell and Vinci held a "testing day" in school where all participants needed to take any online tests associated with business topics that were chosen by the students. When they arrived at Lake Morey, the events were all role plays. Ethen Waterman said he studied for about a month and half straight.
"WRCC FBLA participants are a force to reckon with each year, they consistently perform well. Bravo to these kids," said Cornell.
According to Cornell, Brattleboro placed in every event they competed in and this earned them medals, certificates, scholarships, and even some money in some cases.
As state title holders, the chapter is now invited to compete at Nationals for more leadership skill building and more shots at winning scholarship money. Each student must raise about $2,200 by May if they would like to participate in this event. FBLA is looking for donations to help their accomplished students attend this national conference.
Students who participated at states were the following: Matt Dulmaine, Meghan Forrett, Sarah Forrett, Sarah Gauthier, Ty Grannum, Aleecia Joy, Jack Ochukpue, Victoria Packard, Rachel Parker, Maya Patterson, Isabel Renaud, Rida Rosner, Ethen Waterman, Emily Whitworth, Garrett Winchester and Greg Wood.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802 254-2311 ext 275