With the help of volunteers and 11 community donations totaling $540, three North Marion High School Future Business Leaders of America chapter members were able to travel to Chicago this summer for a national competition designed for future business leaders.
"I had never grown this involved within FBLA before, so as my final year of high school came to a close, I figured, 'Let's push ourselves further!'" Class of 2022 graduate Norma Lopez Paz said. "After the memorable experience at the FBLA Oregon State Leadership Competitions, I figured this trip would be just as exciting and beneficial. Competing at such a high level was an honor in and of itself."
Lopez Paz, 2022 graduate Kierra Smith, and rising senior Grace Davenport traveled together with their FBLA chapter adviser and helpful volunteers, including a school board member, from June 28 to July 3 for the National Leadership Conference. Students competed in business-centric events, networked and gained a feel for how to navigate through a professional community. The three national participants — among six North Marion students who qualified during a state event in April — competed in the following categories:
• Lopez Paz, Future Business Leader (must demonstrate involvement, leadership, and outstanding achievement);
• Smith, Accounting 2 (must show a strong understanding of accounting terms and concepts); and
• Davenport, Business Management (must exhibit decision-making skills, public speaking ability, and leadership).
"The first day of the conference was eye-opening to say the least," Lopez Paz said. "I understood that students would compete, but this was nothing like at the previous state level. The competition brought together students from different states, cultures and backgrounds. Sharing our experiences within the club with students from other states was refreshing and exciting. This trip was truly special for me because I got to meet and hear the stories of so many people."
Davenport said that she felt similarly.
"I would have to say the best part of FBLA nationals would have to be getting to meet all the other high schoolers from the other states," she said. "Getting to see how big FBLA really is and having the opportunity to see what other FBLA chapters are doing is a great way of getting new ideas."
There were about 10,200 students who competed for one of about 80 places in the 2022 national finals. This year, only four finalists were Oregonians, two from Klamath Falls at Mazama High School and two from Seaside High School. The outcome aside, the North Marion students learned a great deal from preparing for the presentations, interviews and tests involved in nationals.
North Marion FBLA chapter adviser Kelly Ioane said she is proud of her students for all the hours and effort they gave.
"It is a lot of work," said Ioane, also the North Marion business teacher. "I like it when kids step up and take on a challenge."
Ioane said that one of her students' key supporters has always been North Marion School Board Director Bill Graupp, an active volunteer who is also the chair of the Oregon FBLA Board of Trustees. She said he readily shares the details about an event or conference and is always willing to help students.
"He is all about the kids," Ioane said. "If there is any kid who needs anything, he says, 'How can I help?'"
Graupp said that helping all students is the role of the FBLA Board of Trustees, the leaders of the Oregon FBLA. The organization offers not only competitions but also skill-building and community service opportunities for students.
"Everything I'm doing is for the kids. That's what we're here for," he said, then laughed. "When you get to be as old as I am, that's what's left to do."
Besides, Graupp said, not only does he enjoy volunteering for the students, supporting a teacher like Ioane is an honor.
"Kelly, what she does for kids in North Marion, is outstanding, so she deserves my help and more," he said.
Graupp has offered so much, even taking the students out for dinner in Chicago, Ioane said. The students loved exploring Chicago, starting with learning how to map out a route via trains and buses, she said. They visited Millennium Park, the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka "The Bean"), Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower, Field Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Lincoln Park Zoo.
Ioane's sister, Kasey Sorenson, lives in Chicago and drove the students to the zoo, which is free to visit. Sorenson, senior director of Research & Knowledge at Ankura Consulting Services, also took the young leaders on a tour of her office at Ankura, which offers business advisory services. She gave each student a water bottle and Patagonia backpack, both with the Ankura logo.
"Overall, the weather was perfect, our transit experiences were all good, even though we messed up a few times and I left my bag on the 'L' station bench (but it was still there when I rode back to get it)," Ioane said. "We had a great time with FBLA members from the state of Oregon and beyond."
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