FBLA national conference in Atlanta hosts 14K students and educators

Downtown Atlanta bustled this week with the Future Business Leaders of America's national conference. Most of American business is small business. And business success doesn’t happen by accident. It has to be cultivated. FBLA taps young people early teaching them about leadership, networking and competition. 

Georgia has the largest chapter in the country. That’s great for the state, but let this new Lowdnes High School graduate tell you what this organization can do on a personal level.

"Actually, you may not believe it, but I was a shy sixth grader coming in," Lauren Greer told the FOX 5 I-Team with a big smile. "I’m definitely not very shy anymore. I’ve come to grow a lot."

Midtown High School rising senior and state chapter vice president Eamon Walsh tells the same story. "When I first joined FBLA, I was a shy, timid high schooler and since being in the organization my leadership skills have grown exponentially."

This is what FBLA does; it brings young people in and helps them tap into their confidence, their talents, and their interests. And the ever-evolving organization that’s been around since 1937 meets students where they are.

"Our students, many go on to a traditional, four-year college experience, but we have a number of them going into wonderful, two-year technical as well as community colleges. Maybe they’ve already started their own business and they want to pursue education." FBLA president and CEO Alex Graham told us. "Then, we have a high number of them maybe getting certifications and going right into the workforce, maybe in software development." 

Atlanta hosted 14,000 FBLA members this week downtown. 

Fourteen thousand young people and educators from around the country poured in on Tuesday for a four-day national conference at the Georgia World Congress Center. Booths were set up to have professional photos made, to learn about business opportunities, to meet college recruiters, and to enter business competitions that range from accounting, to business management plans, to web design. 

Valdosta’s Lauren Greer is a state-elected student board member and a regular competitor.

"Literally, one competition two years ago made me start taking classes in graphic design and made me keep competing in it, and now it’s what I’m majoring in for college next year," Greer said.

She will be attending Kennesaw State University in the fall.

The conference keynote speaker, Jordan Davis, is an FBLA success story. The former student now runs his own company called JD Speaks directed at this age group to help students to design their class choices and pathways.

"Students have so many opportunities available to them, but it’s important to be intentional about the things they sign up for when it comes to their internship they are applying to in the summer, when it comes to the majors, and what they want to study in college," Davis said.

National data shows that small business makes up for 99.9% of all American business. This is the nation’s engine. These young people want to be part of it. When students join FBLA in middle school they’re exposed to options, by high school they can hone their interests, in college they are fine-tuning their path. 

CEO Alex Graham explained, "That’s the hallmark of FBLA, not just with the skills you come with, but then experiencing and developing the skills you may not be aware that you have."

"I think this experience really does pay dividends, and for anyone thinking about joining FBLA it’s definitely worth it," the once-shy young man Eamon Walsh said. " You should give it a shot because it does change lives."