FORT MILL --
In just five years, Nation Ford High School’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter grew from a start-up with two students to one of the best in the U.S.
Now in its sixth year, the program, which has 136 students for 2012-13, boasts 100 winners in district and state competitions and students who have reached the top on the national level under advisor Lynn Marsh. Before getting down to business this year, students will be involved in a number of community service and fundraising activities. The students work toward success in all their activities, but raising money is especially important this year so FBLA can finance a trip to compete out on the west coast later this school year.
Like a coach who’s expected to field a winning team every year, Marsh knows recruiting is a key to keeping a stocked roster despite the annual turnover due to graduation.
“Ms. Marsh was very influential in me joining, junior Andrew Bruce says. “Ever since freshman year she’s been on me to join and I’m very glad I did.”
It wasn’t just the force of his advisor’s will that got Bruce involved, however.
“I joined FBLA this year because I believed it would be a great experience to learn more about the potential career field I plan to go into after college,” he says.
When it comes time to compete, Bruce will be fellow juniors Riley Hilton and Michael Allen Jr. in the marketing event.
“I hope to contribute to the success that this program has had in the past,” he says.
One of Nation Ford FBLA’s most accomplished seniors was also once recruited into the fold.
Forrest Holloman, now the FBLA state president, says he was “especially sought after by a few officers and advisers who saw a brighter future for myself. I grew my passion after visiting our national conference as a freshman. This passion continued to shine as I decided to become a regional then state officer for our organization.”
If his passion was ever put to the test it was early on, when FBLA competed n flood-ravaged Nashville his freshman year.
“My favorite part of FBLA would be our bonding moments in Nashville,” he says. “We were forced to undergo very unwanted changes at the conference. We overcame that with our chapter bonding that made us even stronger as a chapter.”
Holloman says FBLA has been pivotal in his young life.
“FBLA has forever changed my life in a major way. I use most of the things I have learned in FBLA every day. I have bettered myself as a leader and a person,” Holloman says.
“I decided to join FBLA this year because I knew that it would provide me with the experience needed to do well in college,” senior Eric Cirillo says.
“I was a part of FBLA my freshman year, but did not compete in anything. This year I will be teaming up with fellow senior Peter Sturgis and sophomore Ross Jasper to compete in business ethics. I plan to go on and major in broadcast journalism at the University of South Carolina and am sure that being a part of FBLA will do nothing but benefit and prepare me for my future.”
For Ashley Hudgins, a senior and FBLA officer, this year culminated an odyssey that began her freshman year.
“I was very overwhelmed by all of the clubs available and which ones to be a part of,” Hudgins recalls. “After school I rode home with a senior [FBLA] officer, and he told me all about FBLA. He told make passionately that colleges love to see FBLA on your application, you meet all kinds of people, the club exposes you to real life scenarios, and it is a bunch of fun. I decided for a senior to speak so highly of a club, it would most likely be worth my time.
“After one meeting I could tell this was a club full of fun and intelligent people, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Not to mention the advisors are wonderful!”
Last year, Hudgins, who says “the competitions are very nerve wracking, but incredibly fun,” had an experience she says she’ll forget.
“My favorite moment of FBLA was during the state convention of 2011. I was so sad to leave the Charleston convention early due to another activity since I would not get to hear if I placed high enough to advance to nationals. I was in a formal event during the FBLA awards ceremony when all of a sudden my phone began going crazy! I had placed to go to nationals, and all of my friends and advisors were letting me know, it was incredible!” she says.
“The love and support for just placing was incredible and it made me realize how close all of the members, officers, and advisors really are.”
Competitions will be part of the students’ schedules before they know it, but in the meantime, students will be busy with community events, including Friday’s home football game, when the Falcons host the York Cougars. The FBLA is promoting a “Purple Out” to support March of Dimes and “Save the Babies.” Nation Ford’s players, cheerleaders and dance team will be wearing purple – fans are encouraged to do the same – and FBLA will be selling purple lollipops.
“This is such an important cause that not many people are aware of,” students Nancy Farag says. “In the words of Ms. Marsh, ‘we are doing this to Save the Babies.’”
On Friday, Oct. 26, FBLA is taking a field trip to Shriners Children’s Hospital in Greenville, a beneficiary of the students’ Build-a-Bear project.
Marsh, who’s now advised more than 600 FBLA students, says they benefit in a variety of ways.
“It is extremely rewarding when we have been able to mentor/convince a child that they have more ability/skill than they believe,” she says.
“It never gets old when a student wins in an event when they didn’t believe they could really do it. It is amazing to see they look on their face as they get called to the stage and win awards. We always talk about ‘getting out of their comfort zone’ and learning new skills. Confidence, not cockiness, is a beautiful trait. Some students who may not have go on to major in business more importantly have learned that business is in every aspect of their life no matter what they want to do.”
Speaking of confidence, “FBLA has helped me to become more outgoing since most of the people in FBLA were upper classmen and I was a freshman,” sophomore officer Hannah Harvey says.
“I also learned to be more professional.”
For Farag, the experience has her enthused for what’s ahead as FBLA gears up for its schedule.
“Even though it has only been a few weeks, I have learned so much and can not wait for the rest of the school year,” she says.