By Ryan Mckinnon
The Bradenton Herald
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 61 Haile Middle School students will compete in a variety of academic competitions to demonstrate their business acumen at the upcoming “Future Business Leaders of America” competition in Orlando. FBLA is a nationwide organization with more than 230,000 students participating in middle school, high school and college-level chapters.
The Bradenton Herald
Ms. Rico’s classroom at Carlos E. Haile Middle School was full Thursday afternoon with nearly 60 middle school students designing web pages, building spreadsheets, making PowerPoint presentations and practicing speeches.
At one computer, Zara Smith, 13, was calculating averages using Microsoft excel. At another, Elise Dapper, 12, was working with a group to put the finishing touches on a PowerPoint presentation on the dangers of social media.
America’s 10th-largest Future Business Leaders of America middle school chapter was hard at work, preparing for states, where 61 Haile Middle School students will compete in a variety of academic competitions to demonstrate their business acumen.
“All of this stuff — it’s not just something I’m going to do in middle school to keep me occupied, it’s something that I can work with down the line that will actually be crucial to my adulthood,” said Lexi Tibbetts-Black, 13, as she worked with Elise on the PowerPoint.
FBLA is a nationwide organization with more than 230,000 students participating in middle school, high school and college-level chapters. Thursday afternoon’s work session was a chance for students to continue preparation for the state-level competition March 23 to 25 in Orlando.
Business teacher Esmeralda Rico leads the Haile Middle School chapter, which has grown from about 20 students when she took over to 124 students this year.
“It’s just growing and growing,” she said. “I don’t have an answer for why.”
The skills Rico passes on to her students would be useful in any modern workplace, she said. FBLA is not as much geared toward teaching students how to be entrepreneurs as it is about teaching them about job opportunities and learning skills any employer would hope for.
Rico said a personality test that connects students to careers suited to their interests is particularly helpful.
“They end up finding out about a job they never thought they would have,” Rico said. “All of a sudden, a kid wants to be an anesthesiologist or a marine photographer. They had never though about those things — all they thought about was doctor, lawyer, veterinarian.”
And the events harness the students’ competitive spirit — Zara was excitedly describing all the Excel shortcuts Rico had taught her before Rico reminded her that this would be in the newspaper and not to give away Haile’s secrets.
Dominic Rodriguez, 14, was working hard Thursday as he prepared for the FBLA Introduction to Computers test. Last year, he was subjected to 12 months of little-brother smack-talk after his younger brother Nicolas, 12, placed higher than him in the category.
“It was kind of annoying,” Dominic said.
“I like to brag,” Nicolas said.
Rico said as the competition draws near, she gets more and more excited to see the students compete.
“This is my favorite part of teaching. You get to know the kids a little bit more, so when they succeed, it’s really gratifying,” Rico said. “I’m their biggest cheerleader.”