By: Amanda DeMaria, Alexandra Li, and Uma Attreya
The State Leadership Conference (SLC) for the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) club has finally become a reality! After a year of virtual competitions and conferences, FBLA members all across NJ were able to congregate in Atlantic City from March 9-11. This is the second year of FBLA at JCHS, so it was our first actual conference! We left JCHS at around 4 (after quick pictures; check the JCHS FBLA Instagram and Mr. Devlin’s Instagram!), and the drive was a little more than 2 hours. I cannot tell you much about the bus ride since I was half asleep listening to a true crime podcast, but I can say it went pretty smoothly. We made a quick stop in Monmouth for a bathroom break, and in case you were wondering, rest stops do have Shake Shack!
Anyway, once we got to Harrah’s (our hotel), we had a bit of a walk. Firstly, we did have to wait in the cold for everyone to unload their bags from the bus. After we got inside, we walked right past the casino with obvious indication not to enter it during our stay. We then had to walk what felt like around the entire first floor to get to the receptionist desk. Once we were officially checked in, we all wandered to the “correct” tower (yes, this hotel was so big there were different towers). On the eighth floor, we realized our room numbers did not match those on the floor. After Mr. Harper took the elevator back down to check with the front desk on our right tower, we finally reached our rooms. We settled in, changed into less wrinkly business casual attire, then went to the opening ceremony downstairs; NJ FBLA state officers were giving their campaign speeches (two officers from each chapter had to vote on Thursday night). Afterwards, we were able to meet with other students from our region (North Central) and play Kahoot before retiring to our rooms. Overall, it was an exhilarating first day and it certainly made me realize how large the club was, with hundreds of students from all around the state.
The second day was the only full day of the conference and the day that many individuals came for: competition day. Everyone woke up bright and early from excitement and partly because we all had to get dressed in our business attire. We then went down the elevator and each got breakfast with our friends from the bakery or Starbucks that was located within the hotel. We met up with Mr. Harper and Mrs. Hecht at 8:45 to go over rules and regulations for the day. From there we split off. Some of us had competitions at 9 am and some had competitions later in the day. One criticism of the conference is that many competitions were running late and disorganized, especially at the beginning of the day. For instance, our competition did not start until 10 am when we were scheduled for 9 am. However, we were able to socialize and review our material outside of the conference room.
Every competition was different, consisting of things such as pre-made presentation delivery, case studies, developing apps or performing more extemporaneous presentations. If one was not doing a competition at this time, they had a variety of options for what else to do during the conference. They could work on their presentation back at their room, attend power sessions or workshops (despite some being canceled last minute), or go to the hub. The hub was filled with highschoolers and was a place where one can let loose from the tough days of competition and have fun with the other people from your chapter or meet new people. You could play Just Dance, Giant Janga, Mario Kart, and much more. Our personal favorite was the lip sync battle which Uma and Amanda participated in with a friend they met that day. There were also open events that each chapter could participate in. If one was willing, there were so many opportunities to meet people from other schools around the entire state of New Jersey. There was lunch around 11 am that was provided. There were very few options, but it was another opportunity to make new friends and meet new people.
Around 2 pm, the competitions that had finals were announced and they had to return for finals between 6 pm and 9 pm that night. There were five of us that were called for finals for two different events: Joshua Scott, Adin Lieblein and Aidan Hurley for International Business and Uma Attreya and Amanda DeMaria for Hospitality and Event Management. At 6:45 James Caldwell Highschool went out to dinner as a chapter (if you did not have other obligations like finals or voting for state leaders like Uma and Amanda did). This was a time for the chapter to bond. Despite the overpriced food, we had a blast and it was a good catch up with our chapter. From 6-7:30 pm there were voting booths open with free stuff given out, where people ran for state office. Amanda and Uma were chosen to vote for the state officers and went to different campaigns. Once dinner and voting came to a close, there were many options of stuff to do. We personally went to get gelato at the ice cream shop located inside the hotel and we had the choice of either going to see the hypnotist or the FBLA Bingo. We went to the hypnotist/magician, and he was incredible. He hypnotized a select group of people, which was a ton of fun for us to watch. The hypnotist show ended around 11pm and while many people decided to go back to their hotel room, the three of us decided to socialize a little bit longer because our curfew was 12am. Day 2 was unforgettable and it was an experience that will stick with us for the rest of our lives.
Friday concluded our fantastic time at FBLA. Having completed finals, it was time for the awards ceremony! We quickly packed our bags in the morning and attended the morning session of the awards ceremony. As the first awards were mostly presented to chapters, we did not collect any chapter awards. However, Caramia Olivieri, Iliana Acosta, Julia Rodriguez, and Taylor Cassano-Patti won their open event competition! And after lunch, many of our members won awards, including:
- Amanda DeMaria and Uma Attreya who won 4th place and qualified for Nationals
- Garner Ghering who won 1st place and qualified for Nationals
- Joshua Scott, Adin Lieblein, and Aidan Hurley who won 3rd place and qualified for Nationals
- Ryan Nair who won 3rd place and qualified for Nationals
- Taylor Cassano-Patti who placed in the top ten
- Willian Krusznis who placed in the top ten
- Julian Folch who placed in the top ten
- Ximena Riveros who placed in the top ten
It was an immensely successful run! We went home filled with happiness and with an incredible FBLA experience.
*All photos courtesy of instagram.com*