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Three individual and two team members of the high school's FBLA group won first place in a recent regional competition held in Superior. They are, from left to right: Ethan Genco, Jayne Esch, Will Matchett, Emily Genco and Nick Ambur. The five, along with other fellow FBLA members will advance to a state competition in April which will be held in Milwaukee. Vera Roy-Stoeberl photo

FBLA garners top awards

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River Falls High School teacher and club advisor Chris Silver has about 23 reasons to be proud these days.

That's because almost two dozen of the high school's FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) chapter recently placed fourth out of 25 Wisconsin schools in a regional competition held in Superior. The group of enterprising students competed in public speaking, computer applications, marketing, economics, interview skills and customer service skills.

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Silver teaches business classes at RFHS and is the FBLA advisor. Out of the 80-member FBLA student organization, 23 traveled to Superior. Eighteen will now go on to compete at the state level in Milwaukee next month.

And in addition to the fourth place award, three students and a team of two, earned first place at the regionals, in each of their respective business categories.

Those students are Nick Ambur, Jayne Esch, Emily Genco, Ethan Genco and Will Matchett.

Silver was asked what part of these competitions is his favorite.

He said, "I love watching the preparation and the teamwork that goes into the regional competition. Our students really take pride in representing River Falls High School in a positive way.

"I've received a lot of feedback from other schools about the professionalism of our students in terms of the quality of their projects and how they conduct themselves at FBLA events.

"I believe that my students understand the long-term value of their efforts at regionals."

FBLA President Emily Genco, who is a senior, backs up Silver's sentiments. She said she joined FBLA in her freshman year because she knew it would help her "...gain all sorts of experience, especially in leadership, and gain the confidence to work with my peers and in the community."

Jayne Esch, also a senior, but only a first-time member of FBLA this year, said she knew she would learn valuable skills by joining the popular organization.

She said, "(FBLA is) a great opportunity for anyone looking to gain leadership qualities."

Senior Nick Ambur says his favorite part of FBLA is the yearly contest.

"I like the competition part best," Ambur said. He and partner Will Matchett agreed that the written 100-question contest is challenging and "...a good learning experience."

Ethan Genco, Emily's younger brother, said, "We all know that someday we'll be out in the real world," and being a member of FBLA will help you handle it.

One important aspect of being out in that real world is being able to fill out a job application, said Ethan, and also knowing how to take part and what to expect during subsequent interviews. The sophomore said Silver's in-depth and detailed teaching of those fundamental aspects of business will be helpful in his future.

Emily Genco also finds Silver's approach as FBLA advisor helpful.

"I've never had Mr. Silver as a teacher, but as an advisor, his style is to let students drive their own opportunities. He is there for support but wants us to take ownership of our projects."

FBLA can be found in school all across the nation. It's been in existence for about 72 years, said Silver. River Falls' chapter started in the 1960s.

"Our mission is to strengthen the confidence and character of our students through contributing to our local community and participating in activities that lead to an understanding of global business enterprise," Silver said.

Ethan Genco listed several events and activities that FBLA hosts during the school year. Those include total responsibility of the high school's Cat Shop, a "store" within the school where students can buy various kinds of apparel, office supplies, beverages, candy and other sweets.

FBLA members man the store, order supplies, handle the advertising and more.

Genco added, "We're looking to expand," with regards to the shop's inventory, in the near future.

FBLA also runs the school's concession stands at all home football games, runs an in-school blood drive, plans and organizes a flower sale in celebration of Valentine's Day, and hosts the annual craft sale during the winter holiday season.

Once a year FBLA also hosts "Cat Fest," giving local bands an opportunity to show off their talents during a competition. T-shirts and CDs are sold during the musical event.

Reaching out further into the community, FBLA organizes a hygiene drive for Turningpoint abuse shelter. The school's Focus groups are pitted against each other for a prize which goes to the classroom amassing the most hygiene products.

In addition to Emily Genco as the group's president, other officers are: Katie Yelken, vice president; Preston Parnell, secretary; Nick Davidson, treasurer; and Collin Tompkins-Berg and Matt Schwalen, who share public relations duties.

As the group's advisor, Silver finds working with the FBLA members a rewarding task.

"It has been a great pleasure to work with the FBLA students," he said. "I've enjoyed their creativity and their willingness to give back to our community. These students have gained a jump start on their transition from school to a competitive workplace.

"We have a number of students involved with FBLA events who are not participating in team sports or other extra-curriculars. These students have found their 'niche' in our FBLA community. I believe their involvement has been especially important to these students and it's been rewarding to watch them grow as a result."

The FBLA state competition will be held Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3.

Silver says about the upcoming event: "I look forward to seeing what (the students) will bring to the state competition in Milwaukee."

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