Menomonee Falls — They need it now and they will need it then. Teamwork. The ability to work well in a team is one of those unspoken skills that is crucial to any career. That is one of many reasons for the recent success of the Menomonee Falls Future Business Leaders of America team, at least according to chapter President Anthony Russo.
After three straight runner-up finishes at state, the team for the first time ever took home the coveted first place trophy from the state competition in April.
"It was the culmination of a lot of hard work by the team," said Russo, an 18-year-old senior. "And it's not over yet." A school record of 33 students will journey to Nashville, Tenn. in June to compete in the national competition.
The team has come a long way since adviser Sara Burling started FBLA in 2001 when she began teaching in the Falls and "begged kids to compete." Now FBLA boasts 263 members, and is the largest club in the state.
"There is no stereotypical mold you need to fill to succeed in FBLA," said Burling, who advises the club with fellow business teacher Michelle Oliver. "I think it is really important for them in developing skills that will help them not only in their personal life, but in their professional lives inside and outside the high school."
That has certainly been the case for 18-year-old senior Megan Rohde, who points to experience as one of the most valuable take-aways from her participation in the organization.
"It might be scary at first to try new things, but it's fun too because everything you try adds to your experience," said Rohde. "Seeing hard work develop into success, and watching that happen around you has been the best part of competing this year."
Rohde, who joined the team as a sophomore and began competing as a junior, is advancing to nationals in a category that essentially walks competitors through the process of getting a job.
In addition to submitting a resume and cover letter before the competition, Rohde completed a test that challenged her business savvy and was interviewed about the steps she has taken to prepare to enter the business world. "FBLA teaches you things you don't learn in a classroom," said Rohde, who is attending the Indiana University Bloomington to study accounting and marketing in the fall.
Hers was one of a whopping 45 categories from which students can choose to compete, which Burling said is one of the reasons the club has developed to the point it has. "There really is something for everyone based on what strengths they wish to develop," she said.
In addition to competition, the team participates in community service projects, including helping out at the Menomonee Falls Scholarship Banquet and trick or treating for canned goods for the Menomonee Falls Food Pantry.
"It's different than a sports team because you're coming together in an academic group for an academic reason to advance your future," said Russo. "It's pretty exciting to see the level of passion that ignites."
Russo competed in two categories, including one in which he had to put together an annual report for the team. The report totaled 30 pages, which Russo said was a worthwhile effort in contribution to the win at state.
"It's pretty amazing to see students come together and learn and develop the necessary skills you need in the business world and put them into a competition setting," said Russo, who is also attending Indiana University Bloomington for finance and accounting in the fall. "Participating in FBLA this year is one of the most exciting things I've ever done."
BY THE NUMBERS
students advancing to nationals
members of the team
years since club inception in Menomonee Falls
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