Tomorrow's leaders

Program teaches business skills to Routt County high school students


— Networking. Interviewing. Communicating. Competing.

These skills -- essential to have in the business world -- are usually learned through firsthand, real-world experience.

But dozens of Routt County teenagers are getting a leg up on their future business-world competition and learning such skills through local chapters of Future Business Leaders of America.

Steamboat Springs High School, Hayden High School and Soroco High School each have their own FBLA chapters.

FBLA, founded in 1937 by Dr. Hamden Forkner, seeks to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs, according to its mission statement.

Accordingly, various FBLA chapters meet annually for leadership conferences and district, state and national competitions.

Last fall, five Steamboat Springs High School FBLA officers traveled to Grand Junction for a leadership conference, where they learned motivational strategies and leadership skills.

"(FBLA) is giving us all the skills to be a good business leader," Steamboat Springs High School student Christian Hogrefe said. "You have to know the world of business (to be successful), and that's what we're getting a taste of."

Once a year, FBLA chapters converge for district competitions, where students test their knowledge in a variety of business-related fields such as marketing, multimedia, business calculations, impromptu speaking and Web design.

"They choose what they're interested in," Steamboat FBLA co-sponsor and business teacher Shirley Belz said. "It's so neat to see them become self-directed learners."

The Feb. 3 district competition in Grand Junction was attended by 21 Steamboat Springs High School FBLA members and 11 Soroco High School FBLA members. Hayden's FBLA sponsor could not be reached for comment.

"It gives them a lot of experience working with different people," Soroco High School FBLA sponsor and business teacher Anita Tekulve said. "It also gives them a lot of leadership opportunities."

Steamboat students Luke Belz and Ryan Marsden placed second for their multimedia presentation and earned a berth to the state competition in Vail at the end of April.

"It's fun to go to the competitions, dress up for them and act business-like," Luke Belz said. "It gives you an edge up on the competition."

District and state events help students identify their interests and opportunities in the business world, he added.

"I want (students) to have an authentic experience where they feel what a professional business environment is like," Shirley Belz said.

Both the Steamboat chapter and the Soroco High School chapter are very involved in the community as well.

Steamboat FBLA members have raffled gift baskets for March of Dimes, collected teddy bears for a local shelter for the abused and battered, and made cards for Doak Walker Care Center patients to fill out and send to friends and family for holidays.

The Soroco High School chapter routinely teams up with United Way and volunteers to read to elementary students for Read Across America Day.

Community service is just as important as networking, Shirley Belz said.

"I think (sponsors) want them to learn about giving and not just taking, and that's why we're involved in a lot of community activities," Shirley Belz said.

Thirty-one Steamboat students and 25 Soroco students are FBLA members, numbers that have steadily increased over the years.

And for those who think FBLA sounds like all work and no fun, think again.

District and state competitions host dances and parties for participating students, and social events are common within FBLA chapters.

Even if business isn't your cup of tea, FBLA can still serve a purpose:

"It's good on the old college resume," Steamboat student Alex Lomas said.


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