THOMASVILLE – Thomas County Central High School Future Business Leaders of America chapter continues to post strong showings on the competition circuit.

Approximately 33 TCCHS FBLA members participated in the 2023 Georgia FBLA State Leadership Conference and Competition March 9-12. Ten students placed, and three advanced to the national level: Caleb Kinneer and the team of Caroline Westberg and Kayden McLain.}TCCHS FBLA chapter’s mantra is “all in”, and head adviser Nicholas Haskin expressed pride in the members’ accomplishments, especially considering the overall age of competitors this year.

“We only had two seniors compete at SLC; we mostly competed with underclassmen,” he said. “We had four freshmen return home with medals, and two of those qualified for nationals! For those who advanced to nationals, I am excited to watch them strap in andcontinue to work hard to achieve at levels they may not even see in themselves yet.”

Senior Caleb Kinneer, 18, was surprised and happy to learn he won fourth place in Job Interview.

Advancing to the national competition was a dream goal, but he didn’t get his hopes up, especially given the staunch competition from larger schools throughout the state.

“There were thousands of competitors there for FBLA, but only the top four from each category advance, so when I found out I would be one of them, I still had a hard time believing it,” Kinneer said. “I try to look for validation outside of achievement, but getting to go to nationals definitely helped show me all my hard work … paid off.”

For his category, Kinneer built a comprehensive résumé, wrote a cover letter and prepared for the interview process for a lifeguard supervisor position at a fictitious agency.

“Thankfully, my school has provided me with a multitude of opportunities to build this résumé with 14 AP classes, nine Dual Enrollment classes, varsity athletics, band, leadership opportunities, and various clubs that have also gotten me into Georgia Tech,” he said. “Without these activities and hobbies, my résumé would not have allowed me to keep up with the Atlanta competition.”

To prepare for the interview, Kinneer studied possible questions and worked with Haskin, TCCHS CTAE Director Dr. Beth Adams, and three TCCHS FBLA graduates/former national competitors – Karsyn Bush, Shelby Howard and Tyler (Williamson) Warren.

“The advice, help and guidance provided by this group were truly invaluable, and I greatly owe my success in my event to them,” he said.

Ninth-graders Caroline Westberg, 14, and Kayden McClain, 15, received fourth place in Community Service Project. Their entry focused on TCCHS’ annual Shop With A Yellow Jacket, or SWAYJ, event.

“I was so happy with my placement at state and ecstatic with my advancement to nationals,” Westberg said. “When I heard our placement, I was in shock and ended up in tears off the stage. It means so much that all my hard work has paid off, and I can’t wait for nationals!”

McLain’s likewise ecstatic.

“When I first heard, I could hardly believe it, and it took me a second to fully realize,” she said. “This really means so much to me, especially through all of the hard work that me and Caroline both put into this ….”

Other placers include Ethan Mainprize, Bishop Jackson, Kayla Carr, Emma “Kate” Griffith, Shane Sanford, Roan Adams and Natalie Carlisle (see box)

Ninth-grader Emma “Kate” Griffith wished she had placed higher, but eighth place for Local Chapter Annual Business Report feels good.

“Placing eighth at state as a freshman meant a lot because it showed me that my hard work can lead to rewarding things,” Griffith said. “Not only did our team of three have to design a magazine about our school, but we also had to talk about it to a panel of three judges.”

Griffith, who also competed in Intro to Public Speaking, appreciates the experience and anticipates future challenges.

“I feel that both events gave me a great outlook on what I will be accomplishing in FBLA throughout high school and what I have to work for in the future,” she said.

Roan Adams, 15, has mixed emotions about his state placement – seventh – with teammate Natalie Carlisle in American Enterprise Project. They wrote a report about the post-COVID reopening of the TCCHS school store, The Nest, that promoted awareness of the American enterprise system within the school.

On the one hand, he’s proud of their placing as younger competitors; on the other, he feels he could have put in a little more effort.

“With all the knowledge I’ve gained through this project and connecting with students, I believe one new thought stands out from the others: putting just a little more effort into something can go a long way,” Adams said. “I’m still extremely thankful for the experience I got to share with my fellow FBLA members. It was lots of fun, and I wouldn’t wish for anything to change.”

Partner Natalie Carlisle, 15, agreed.

“I was very proud because we placed in the top 10, but I was still disappointed,” she said. “To me, this means that I need to put more work and time into my event next year so I can make it [to] nationals. We procrastinated some aspects of our presentation this year, so next year, we need to prepare for our event weeks in advance.

“I will use this knowledge gained in future FBLA competitions to better prepare for my events. These experiences in life endeavors will serve as a lesson in responsibility and dedication.”

The 2023 FBLA National Leadership Conference is June 27-30 in Atlanta.

Westberg and McLain intend to prep by practicing their performance skills, including memorization of the slide order. They aim to crack the top 10 in their category.

Kinneer plans to build his résumé however possible and continue gathering advice from respected advisers and sources.

“I will find ways that I can set myself apart from others in the interview and continue to try to make myself the ideal candidate,” he said. “Placing at nationals would be amazing, but my goals are just to go and enjoy the experience. I know I will be around some very impressive people, so I hope that I can learn from some of them in whatever ways I can.”

Haskin said the Georgia FBLA organization takes nationals preparation so seriously that its executive director travels each spring to help competitors hone their slides and presentations.

“Georgia FBLA has brought more medals home than any other chapter in the world,” Haskin said. “We’ve beaten California, New York and China the past few NLCs! Make no mistake: our students will be ready!”

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