Published on March 14, 2022 at 2:45 p.m.
Few afterschool clubs across the state can match the 124% membership growth seen by Palmerton Area High School’s Future Business Leaders of America over the past decade.
Palmerton has turned that large membership into an unprecedented success with 66 of its 82 students qualifying for the upcoming FBLA State Conference April 11-13.
Councilors Kerry Palumbo and Jennifer Danzeisen are in their 10th year at the helm of the club, which is now the sixth largest among 266 chapters in Pennsylvania.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience to see how we’ve grown,” Palumbo said during a recent presentation to the Palmerton School Board. “The great thing about this club is that anyone can join. You don’t have to be at the top of your class. You could be a really good entertainer, or really good at public speaking. , or maybe math is your thing and you’re good at it.There are so many different areas for kids to explore what their future might look like before committing to higher education and a major without get an idea of where they start.
Based on Palmerton’s entries in the FBLA state competition, he estimates between 10 and 15 qualified for the national conference in Chicago later this year. Senior Chris Walkowiak gave the Bombers their best-ever FBLA performance when he placed ninth out of 88 competitors last year in the national computer problem-solving competition. Prior to Nationals, at the 2021 State Conference, Maddie Everett and Madeline Wentz finished first in “Intro To Social Media Strategy.” The duo had to create a strategy they would use to help grow the school’s influence across three different social media platforms.
Many FBLA clubs have seen a sharp drop in attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, statewide membership has grown from 12,723 students before the pandemic to 6,875 in 2020-21.
“We were one of the few clubs, even last year, that continued to meet students and prepare them for tests,” Palumbo said. “A lot of our students embraced it, even when we weren’t in person, because it gave them something to do on their own when they were just stuck in front of a computer.”
In 2019-20, Palmerton’s membership peaked at 111 students, but even with a slight decrease, 17% of its student body still participates in the organization.
With more success, however, there are more costs. The Palmerton Board of Directors last updated its FBLA funding amount when it pledged $8,000 in 2016. It costs around $3,000, however, just for coaches and counselors, as the district requires one adult for every 10 students.
“An ideal scenario would see the district pay for the transportation and cost of counselors, whatever they are from year to year, so we can use all of that $8,000 to directly lower the individual cost for students,” said Palumbo. . “All we want is the ability to give more kids a chance to participate, especially to attend the state conference, by covering some of the basic costs that we have to administer at the club. “
Each student will have an estimated cost of $350 to attend this year’s state conference. The cost includes three nights of accommodation, five meals, registration fees, shuttle transportation to the conference, a t-shirt and a day ticket to Hersheypark.
In addition to their competitive events, students will attend workshops throughout the conference and hear from many motivational speakers.
“I think we need to have a discussion about what we can commit to so that we can give all children as many financial opportunities as possible,” board chair Tammy Recker said. in response to the club’s request for a new fundraising approach.
The Palmerton FBLA has raised nearly $3,000 to date through a variety of fundraisers.
He’s hosting a trivia night, open to everyone, on March 29 at 6 p.m. in the Palmerton Area High School cafeteria.
“It’s $10 per person and we plan to have prizes for each round a trophy at the end,” Palumbo said. “There will also be food and baked goods. We’re trying to put together something that will be a really fun night for everyone.
Members of the Palmerton Area High School Future Business Leaders of America chapter pose for a photo outside of the school. Palmerton, the sixth-largest chapter in the state, qualified 66 students for the FBLA state conference in Hershey in April. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO