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A new student organization chapter comes to Ankeny

Thursday, May 19, 2022
Adviser Michael Mertz and sophomore Tyler Brown

Adviser Michael Mertz and sophomore Tyler Brown

It has been a busy year for Ankeny High School sophomore Tyler Brown. His days have been filled with school work, clubs, golf, church groups and even his own animal rescue business. So, what would make this 16-year-old add one more thing to his already-filled schedule? It’s a new opportunity to develop his professional skills.

Starting last fall, Ankeny High School opened their local chapter of Future Business Leaders of America, commonly known as FBLA. As the largest business career and technical student organization (CTSO) in the world, FBLA has an annual roster of over 230,000 members worldwide who, like Tyler, are interested in business, career preparation and building leadership skills.

“FBLA is great,” said Michael Mertz, Ankeny High School FBLA adviser. “It challenges kids to get outside of the school and out of their comfort zones to apply what they’ve learned. They’ve had to take initiative and work on things like public speaking, networking, fundraising and leading events.

“There are a lot of opportunities for them to grow.”

FBLA members did a worksite visit to Casey's General Store's business office.

FBLA members did a worksite visit to Casey's General Store's business office.

The recent addition of FBLA at Ankeny High School is a result of a new requirement requiring all career and technical education (CTE) program areas to have a CTSO by 2024-25. CTE programs provide valuable education and preparation to students for future careers in high-demand job fields. The goal of the new CTSO requirement aligns with House File 2392, which ensures all students have consistent and equitable access to high-quality CTE opportunities. In response, CTSO chapters are booming with expansion across the state.

“We forecasted to have 121 new CTSO programs onboarded this year,” said Chris Dzurick, education consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “We nearly doubled that number by February and anticipate adding another 700 programs over the next couple of years.”

A CTSO is more than just an extracurricular activity or school club. It is an integral part of a course curriculum and applies a combination of experiential learning, leadership development and classroom enrichment for its members. Students can use what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world applications through projects, coordinated events, conferences and competitions provided through CTSO experiences.

“A CTSO is the vehicle to show students how applicable their education really is,” Dzurick said.

The visit with the Iowa Wild hockey team staff provided an inside look into the sports entertainment business.

The visit with the Iowa Wild hockey team staff provided an inside look into the sports entertainment business.

Involvement in CTSOs not only helps strengthen specific skills for students, it has shown to have a positive impact on their overall success. In a 2015 study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute, SkillsUSA and the Educational Research Center of America, CTSO members report higher rankings than their non-CTSO peers in areas tied to CTE such as improved grade point average, pursuing a career in the CTE field they are studying and a clearer career path.

“CTSO members show a more defined career path or postsecondary outlook,” Dzurick said. “We know that CTSOs work.”

For Tyler, his first year within FBLA has provided many new opportunities to apply what he has learned and actually put them into practice.

“I really like how FBLA gives students opportunities that they can’t get anywhere else,” he said. “There aren’t necessarily a lot of other chances to practice public speaking or network and hold a conversation with someone you don’t know. These are good things to practice, and I feel more prepared.”

The Ankeny FBLA squad hopes to benefit from the positive enhancement that a CTSO can bring, and they have jumped right in with their activities. Although they are currently a small team of eight people, they have participated in many enriched hands-on experiences. For instance, they have done worksite tours at the business offices of the convenience store chain Casey’s General Store, Accumold, a micro-molding technology company and with the Iowa Wild hockey team. The chapter has also organized a blood drive with LifeServe and helped deliver Thanksgiving meals.

The group also participated in their first FBLA conference competitions at both the district and state levels where they were tested in leadership, business and job interview skills.

“Our students had to do a combination of exams and presentations,” Mertz said. “We had one student qualify for the state competition with his sales presentation, and we did well for our first year. We’re just getting started.”

Conferences and competitions gather chapters from across the state and provide opportunities for schools to network with other students outside of their hometowns and gain new ideas for activities.

CTSO conference and competitions provide opportunities for students to network and strengthen skills.

CTSO conference and competitions provide opportunities for students to network and strengthen skills.

“I liked the conferences,” Tyler said. “I enjoyed the community feel, networking and meeting new people.”

Additionally at the state leadership conference, Tyler successfully ran for and was elected as vice president of FBLA’s district 2. He will continue serving as president of his local chapter at Ankeny High School as well and has big plans for next year as both a district and chapter officer.

“As an officer, I want to reach out to every chapter in the district and make sure they have at least one worksite to visit,” he said. “For our Ankeny chapter, I want to help increase membership and better organize the group. Other members will have more responsibility with fundraising, membership and social media.”

Tyler’s efforts will help the Ankeny chapter grow next year and will provide opportunities to further strengthen each member’s individual capabilities. From his own perspective, FBLA has already helped him with his own professional skills, which he has applied to his animal rescue business, Dog Mom Forever. Dog Mom Forever raises money for Hope Animal Rescue of Iowa by selling various merchandise like shirts, bags and more that have been designed and supplied by Tyler. Through his involvement in FBLA, Tyler has been able to boost his planning, networking, event planning and, most important, his communication skills for his work with Dog Mom Forever.

“Communication is an incredibly important skill needed for running a business,” he said. “You need to be able to work with tons of different people to help your business get off the ground.”

Ankeny High School’s FBLA chapter has started off strong and is poised for continued success next year. However, they recognize that establishing a new CTSO chapter is never easy, and Mertz encourages other schools to take it in stride.

“It’s kind of going into the unknown, but there is a wealth of resources for teachers to get started,” he said. “There are rubrics and standards to help you along the way. Carve out time and get connected to other high schools. There is a lot of upside for having a CTSO.”

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on July 05, 2022 at 5:53pm.