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Woodland Public Schools hosts FBLA conference for nearly 300 students from around the region

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Nearly 300 students gathered at Woodland High School for the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Winter Conference where student teams competed in 60 events ranging from graphic and website design to job interviews and budgeting for businesses along with specialized workshops to train students for business careers after high school on Monday, February 1, 2016.

Nearly 300 students from all around Southwest Washington gathered at Woodland High School to compete in 60 different events. 
Nearly 300 students from all around Southwest Washington gathered at Woodland High School to compete in 60 different events.

Rose Ruff, the business teacher at Woodland High School, organized the event after seeing it grow to a size where it needed a larger venue. "Thanks to Woodland's brand-new high school, we have plenty of room to put on the conference with all of its different events and competitions," said Ruff. "The new high school is such a beautiful venue that the students, coaches, and judges all had a great time enjoying the new space the school allowed."

A total of 291 students from schools around the region participated in individual and group competitions with volunteer judges including business owners, chamber of commerce members, city council members, and board members. "If people have the time to volunteer to judge, they do, because they see the value in FBLA," said Bob Berrigan, the FBLA Southwest Region Advisor and FBLA Chapter Advisor for Heritage High School in Evergreen Public Schools. "The sell to volunteer is super easy because the communities are all so supportive."

Karin Taylor (senior, left) and Megan Jones (sophomore, right) have participated in FBLA to learn about business, public speaking, graphic design, and more.
Karin Taylor (senior, left) and Megan Jones (sophomore, right) have participated in FBLA to learn about business, public speaking, graphic design, and more. 

Students join FBLA for a variety of different reasons. "My parents are business owners, so I wanted to learn more about what running a business entails," explained Megan Jones, a Woodland sophomore in FBLA for her second year. "I love the fact that although there's a sense of competition; all of the students have a mutual understanding that participating in FBLA might take us somewhere, and work together to ensure each other's success – there's a huge feeling of teamwork."

Karin Taylor, a Woodland senior who has been in FBLA since eighth grade, started participating in FBLA in graphic design before getting into business math, client service, and impromptu speaking. "I love speaking in front of people, and it's so much fun to convey what I'm trying to do," she said. "I'm a real people person and it's amazing getting to meet so many new people in the club and at the events."

The FBLA competitions are organized by FBLA advisors from the participating schools. (Pictured, from left to right: Kathy Scobba from Washougal High School; Bob Berrigan from Heritage High School; Kathy Schmit from Kalama High School; Joan Huston from Union High School; and Rose Ruff from Woodland High School)
The FBLA competitions are organized by FBLA advisors from the participating schools. (Pictured, from left to right: Kathy Scobba from Washougal High School; Bob Berrigan from Heritage High School; Kathy Schmit from Kalama High School; Joan Huston from Union High School; and Rose Ruff from Woodland High School)

The biggest challenge facing the FBLA advisers is coordinating the event with its 60 events including 33 speaking competitions. "Coordinating all the moving parts can be a nightmare to make sure they're all working together, but we have a great team of people working to get it done," said Berrigan. "What inspires me is seeing the students change over time; one of my students was going to drop out of school before I got him involved in FBLA. I like seeing students shine when they have opportunities they might not have had before."

Former students rave about their time in FBLA. "Keeping in touch with former students is great because I get to see the impact that FBLA has had on them becoming successful college students and business professionals," said Berrigan. "FBLA goes way beyond what happens in the classroom by showing students how much they can accomplish by presenting to potential employers at these competitions where students have been offered internships on the spot."

In addition to the 60 events, students can participate in workshops where to learn about business practices and other topics.
In addition to the 60 events, students can participate in workshops where to learn about business practices and other topics. 

Ruff started her career working in marketing and advertising for the Portland Expo Center while coaching a cheerleading squad on the side. "I realized that I enjoyed coaching so much that I decided to get my master's degree in teaching and become a full-time teacher," said Ruff, now in teaching her second year at Woodland. "I love so much about teaching, particularly the classes where I teach students about budgeting, balancing checkbooks, and give them skills that will help them in life after high school."

Any interested student can join the Future Business Leaders of America which offers competitions including banking and financial systems; business ethics; client service; 3D animation; computer game and simulation programming; emerging business issues, entrepreneurship; impromptu speaking; and much, much more. For Ruff, she enjoys the coaching aspect of being the FBLA Advisor for Woodland High School. "Coaching FBLA is similar to coaching cheerleading except the kids need to be much more independent," explained Ruff. "Their competitive events in FBLA require them to be on top of time management and preparing to compete."

Berrigan pointed out the variety of students who join FBLA. "All kinds of students get attracted to FBLA," said Berrigan. "Even students who want to be doctors end up in FBLA because they want to learn leadership skills and how to run their own practice."

In order to achieve its success, the FBLA program relies on funding from the state, a part of the state budget currently being reviewed by the legislature. "The state is currently holding hearings on Career and Technical student organizations like FBLA, and we want to make sure our representatives know how vital programs like FBLA are to student development and post-school preparation," said Berrigan.

For more information on FBLA, you can visit their website at www.wafbla.org.