For a chapter that's only existed for two years, Adairsville Middle School's Future Business Leaders of America made a strong showing at a recent regional competition.
The new chapter "made a huge splash in the FBLA world" last month by bringing home 29 Top 5 finishes in the 2020-21 FBLA Region Leadership Conference, which is usually held at Ringgold High School but was conducted virtually this year due to COVID-19, according to adviser Kailey Martin.
"With only 27 members in the club and 23 of the 27 members competing, the students were able to pull multiple medals in several events," she said. "This group of students has really set the bar high for our club. We have worked extra hard to prepare for these competitions and hope to see similar results in the upcoming State Leadership Conference. I am so proud of their dedication to their future and learning real-life skills through the fun and competition of FBLA."
This marked the second time for the club to compete on the regional level, Martin said.
"Last year, we had a few medals but nowhere near the number of this year," she said. "Last year, we were kind of testing the waters to see what to expect, and this year, we prepared and made our names known."
The virtual version of the competition involved the students being tested, in their school's collaborative room, on their skills and knowledge in all areas of business and technology — marketing concepts, business etiquette, social media, computers, coding and digital citizenship, to name a few.
"I wanted our students to compete because I wanted our students to have the opportunity to be recognized for their success and understanding of business concepts that they will use in their future," the adviser said. "This and other conferences allow the students to show what they know. Additionally, students who compete earn points towards the Chapter of the Year competition. Our goal as a chapter this year is to make bronze level Chapter of the Year."
The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade club members were allowed to select the categories in which they wanted to compete, with the maximum being two events, Martin said.
"Students were provided with some study materials," she said. "We also use chapter meetings to give mini lessons on topics. There are also some preliminary testing practice rounds to show the students the types of questions that were to be on the region test."
Chapter President Braden Mathis competed in two categories — Business Etiquette and Creed — and brought home the gold medal in both, with his performance in the Creed event earning him the No. 1 ranking in the state out of the 17 students who entered that category.
"I definitely was surprised, but it was awesome to see all my hard work pay off," he said.
Martin said she is "extremely proud" of the eighth-grader for winning first place in both events.
"He works extremely hard for this organization, and it is awesome to see him rewarded for his efforts," she said. "As our chapter president, he is setting the example for the rest of the members and setting the bar high for future chapter presidents. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he will do great things in FBLA in the future and in life outside of school."
Braden, 14, said he wanted to enter the regional competition to "put the skills I have learned in various classes and in FBLA to work."
"I entered FBLA to advance and diversify myself for things like magnet and college applications," he said. "When I was presented with the opportunity to compete inside the club, I thought of it as just another plus."
His choice of categories was "based on my interest and what I wanted to improve in myself," the Adairsville resident said.
"I pursued the Creed category so that I could improve my soft and presentation skills," he said. "I chose Business Etiquette because it is very important to have good etiquette in everything, including any job you pursue in the future."
Braden, son of Joanna Mathis and Lee Mathis, said he "studied differently" for each of his categories.
"For my first event, the Creed, I rehearsed countless times in the mirror and in front of my parents and my peers to get it down perfectly," he said. "For my other event, Business Etiquette, my adviser provided me with outlets I could use to research and study."
Eight students — Iris Arevalo, Alex Edwards, Aubrie Key, Gio Marroquin, Grayson McKinney, Allison Potter, Brooklyn Young and Braden — will be competing virtually and attending leadership training sessions at the State Leadership Conference in two weeks.
The state testing for the competition took place Friday, and the actual conference that includes the training and the awards ceremony will be Friday, March 5.
"I expect a good showing at state," Martin said. "I know the competition is fierce, but these students never stop amazing me."
Braden is looking forward to returning to the state competition arena again this year.
"I think it is awesome to have this opportunity, and I hope to do well and succeed like I did in regions and state last year," he said.
Martin said when she was hired as the business teacher at AMS in 2017, it was "a goal of mine to start an FBLA chapter within three years."
"I participated in FBLA in high school and would have in middle school had we had a chapter," she said. "I learned a ton. I even went on to major in business in college for my undergrad. I have very fond memories and cherish the life lessons I learned in FBLA. I just wanted to give these students the same opportunity."
Braden also is a big proponent of the club.
"I encourage everyone to engage in FBLA at their local chapter to discover what it really is," he said.
AMS FBLA members who placed in the Top 5 at the regional competition were:
- Business Concepts: Brayden Cochran, third, and Sadie Abernathy, fourth, out of seven.
- Business Etiquette: Braden Mathis, first, and Jolynn Valentine, second, out of 15.
- Business Math and Financial Literacy: Bella Fidazzo, third out of four.
- Computer and Internet Concepts: Justin Gray, first, and Gio Marroquin, second, out of three.
- Creed: Braden Mathis, first out of two.
- Digital Citizenship: Hayden Barnes, fourth, and Jonathan Lara, fifth, out of five.
- Employability Skills: Allison Potter, first; Justin Gray, second; and Kylie Perine, third, out of four.
- Introduction to Business Communication: Grayson McKinney, second, and Suzette Garcia, fourth, out of four.
- Introduction to Computer Science and Coding: Grayson McKinney, first; Gio Marroquin, second; Ana Mihn Nguyen, third; and Iris Arevalo, fourth, out of four.
- Marketing Concepts: Allison Potter, first; Kylie Perine, second; Mckenna Mogush, third; Sadie Abernathy, fourth; and Ella Goble, fifth, out of five.
- Microsoft Office Concepts: Lexie Adcock, second, and Iris Arevalo, third, out of five.
- Social Media Concepts: Brooklyn Young, third; Ana Mihn Nguyen, fourth; and Jonathan Lara, fifth, out of eight.