TCCHS FBLA members advance to nationals; chapter performs well at state


Three Thomas County Central High School Future Business Leaders of America chapter members will showcase their skills in a national competition this summer.

Dev Patel, Manthan Patel and Kayla Carr won first place in their respective categories at the recent 2024 Georgia FBLA State Leadership Conference & Competition in Atlanta. Their first-place wins qualify them for the 2024 FBLA National Leadership Competition & Conference.

TCCHS FBLA Head Adviser Nick Haskin said the competition is fierce at the state level because the chapter competes against others with hundreds of members.

“For those chapters, FBLA is their ‘sport,’ FBLA is their ‘band,’ and they compete as such,” he said. “For Kayla Carr, Dev Patel, and Mann Patel to become state champions in such hard events, I am honored to be their adviser. What made them stand out was their preparedness. They were absolutely ‘locked in.’ There was a calm and confidence that spoke volumes to how prepared they were.”

Dev Patel, 17, and Manthan Patel, 16, brought home first place in the Website Coding and Development category. They designed a job application website for a local restaurant, St. James. The Patels surpassed the requirements: they discussed their plan with the restaurant’s owner and built a full website. 

They had to present a PowerPoint presentation at state, but nothing went as expected. The night before their event, the laptop with their presentation stopped working. The duo had to borrow a laptop and stay up most of the night to make another one.

“We didn’t even expect to make the top 10,” Manthan Patel said. “When our names were called up for top 10, I was already so happy that at least we made it to top 10. On the stage … our hearts were pounding. Since the top four advanced to nationals, when they announced the fifth position, we were stoked. Then came the top three, top two, and first place winner is…Thomas County! It was incredible.”

Dev Patel agreed the experience was an emotional rollercoaster ride.

“It was a mix of emotions because we were very nervous before the event, but when we placed first, we were so happy and could [not] believe we placed so high,” he said.

Manthan Patel enjoyed all aspects of the state competition but said the award ceremony truly stands out.

“Being on that stage holding the state champion plaque and banner in front of 4,000 students was probably the best part for me,” he said.

Kayla Carr, 18, achieved first place in Electronic Career Portfolio. Competitors research their chosen careers and present an electronic resume that includes the skills and experiences that qualify them for that position. Carr chose project management.

“After all of the hard work that I put into doing my best in this event, I am so grateful for the honor of being state champion,” she said. “What means more to me, however, is that after my presentation, I was able to confidently say that I did my best and would have been proud of myself regardless of my placement.”

Overall, the TCCHS FBLA chapter gave a strong performance at state competition. Eighteen members earned top 10 honors, and there were several finalists in addition to the national qualifiers.

“This year's SLC performers were some of the best I've worked with,” Haskin said. “We took 34 students to state and came home with 18 medalists, nine finalists, and three state champions: proud is an understatement. To have so many students medal and become finalists at such a pinnacle level of competition, Thomas County should be proud of the young men and women representing TCCHS!”

Purva Patel, 16, received fifth place in Intro to Public Speaking, where she memorized and gave a five-minute speech about qualities needed to secure a first job. While she hoped to make the top four, she’s still proud of her accomplishment. 

“I practiced my butt off for this,” she said. “At first, I was really upset, but now I realize that since this was just my first year, I actually did really well.”

Duo Kinsley Rhodes, 16, and Kristina Thomas, 15, garnered eighth place in Local Chapter Annual Business Report. It’s a prejudged category with advancers presenting to a judges’ panel at state.

“The Local Chapter Annual Business Report is a magazine and a presentation,” Kristina Thomas said. “We summarize what our chapter and school have done over the year and highlight our FBLA students who go beyond others.”

Thomas and Rhodes feel proud of their placement.

“I have been in FBLA  for three years and have competed at the state level all three years, so finally being able to stand on the stage and complete one of my biggest goals was one of the best feelings,” Kinsley Rhodes said. “I knew we worked hard, and I was proud of us for placing at the state level. I hope that we can improve our presentation skills over the next year in order to hopefully advance to nationals next year.”

Heali Patel, 17, placed eighth in the Job Interview event. She created a resume and cover letter and prepared using potential interview questions and feedback from the regional competition judges.

“I feel accomplished about my placement because this was my first time doing this event,” she said. “Also, as a junior, I was competing against seniors from across the state with extremely impressive resumes as well as strong interviewing skills. So, I felt like I did well against my skilled competition.”

Caroline Westberg, 15, and her partner Kayden McLain received sixth place in the Community Service Project category. 

“We created a 16-page document discussing ‘Gold Out’ shirts for childhood cancer awareness,” Westberg said. “We then created a presentation which we presented to the judges on this topic. Although we didn’t make nationals, I’m still so proud of us and what we accomplished this year.”

The TCCHS FBLA chapter adheres to the FBLA’s global mission to inspire and prepare members to become community-minded business leaders through relevant career preparation and leadership experiences. However, Haskin said that the TCCHS chapter’s mission is to provide a safe place where every student feels accepted, challenged, and has the chance to succeed.

“We want every student to feel they are part of this TCCHS family, which aims to serve our fellow students, serve our local community, and compete at the highest levels,” he said.

Current members can attest to TCCHS FBLA’s myriad benefits and opportunities because these are why they love the organization.

“I love FBLA because of the opportunities it's opened for me,” Rhodes said. “Through FBLA, I earn service hours, and I am able to learn new skills that will complement the field I'm looking to go into. This year, I learned about graphic design through my event. Before this year, I had never even touched a graphic design software, but now I feel very confident in my abilities with software such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Publisher.”

Students also connect with their true selves and each other.

“FBLA is the organization for me because it has brought out my true self and has made me more social and confident around others,” Thomas said. “I love the feeling of walking into a club knowing people are there for you no matter the situation and other students will stick up for you when needed. I truly believe that FBLA is my home and family.”

Heali Patel loves the relationships built with her fellow TCCHS students and members of FBLA chapters at other schools.

“FBLA gives you a chance to learn how to network and build connections that will always be there to help you in times of need, especially with the trips we take,” she said. “In a way, you build relationships with students just like you. The coolest part is that the relationships don't just have to be with members at your school. I have connected with multiple students in FBLA from many different schools.”

The 2024 FBLA National Leadership Competition & Conference is June 28 - July 3 in Orlando, Fla. TCCHS’ three advancers will practice, practice, practice to prepare for competition on the national stage.

Carr feels thoroughly prepared; however, she plans to continue improving.

“I will continue to perfect my website and my presentation so that I have the confidence necessary to succeed at nationals,” Carr said.

The duo Patel intends to practice new presentation techniques and take advice from previous national-level competitors.

“For nationals, we’re giving it our all to win,” Manthan Patel said. “We’re currently trying to make a presentation which they have not seen before. We’re also gonna be practicing all three months – sometimes with alumni – to do our best.”

Haskin said Georgia FBLA has earned more medals than any other chapter at the national level, and TCCHS hopes to add to that number this summer.

“We've beaten California, New York, and China the past few NLCs,” he said. “Georgia takes preparation so seriously that our Georgia FBLA Executive Director Monty Rhodes spends the spring traveling the state of Georgia to help our competitors fine-tune their slides and presentations. Make no mistake, our students will be ready!”

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