West Middle School had six Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) students win awards and had the district’s first-ever National Champion when the National Leadership Conference concluded in Atlanta last month.
Jonah Rathjen Vallejos became Tullahoma City Schools’ first middle or high school student to win an FBLA National Championship. The National Leadership Conference took place on June 27-30 in Atlanta, and over the four days, nearly 1,600 high schools and 250 middle schools competed for cash prizes in more than 100 competitive events.
In his first-place effort, Jonah was tasked with delivering the Annual Chapters Activities Presentation. The detailed report outlined all the things the West Middle School FBLA chapter has accomplished in the last year, including officer initiation, a list of team members, fundraising efforts, and the time spent in competitions. Jonah’s presentation included a detailed summary of the WMS FBLA program over the last two years, with photos to highlight the experience further. While Jonah may have been the individual to claim the national championship, he fully believes this is a team award.
“I believe it is our entire West Middle School chapter, specifically this year and last year, that deserves the pride and recognition considering my presentation was solely based upon our accomplishments as West Middle School FBLA,” Jonah said. “I feel so honored to be able to bring this award to my school and our city. I hope that my accomplishment will encourage future members of Tullahoma FBLA to strive for the best and keep in -mind that anything is possible.”
On top of Jonah’s award, West Middle School also saw five additional students place at the National Leadership Conference. Jessica Jones took fourth place in FBLA Mission and Pledge. Samantha Johnson placed sixth in Career Research. Hayden Good added a sixth-place award in Running an Effective Meeting. Brayton Arant finished sixth in Exploring Computer Science, while Edward Henry claimed seventh place in Financial Literacy. Edward and Jonah became the district’s first-ever two-time national placers after taking home awards in 2022 as well as this year.
This year’s winners further highlight the success of the West Middle School FBLA program, having now claimed 11 awards at the last two National Leadership Conferences. Since starting its FBLA program during the 2018-19 school year, West Middle School has won 12 awards at the national level.
“I told our Principal, Mrs. Cindy Herrera, after having five students place at last year’s Nationals, that she should not expect another year like that,” said WMS FBLA Adviser Franklin Cammack. “Five wins isn’t something you do in back-to-back years. Who knew we would actually beat that record and pull in six this year? I am so proud of these kids. The hard work and dedication to this program they have shown is really extraordinary. I would like to thank the local businesses and the community for donating to the organization. Without their support, these students would never have had the opportunity to go to Atlanta in the first place. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
While West Middle School students were recognized, so was their adviser, as Cammack was named the Tennessee Middle-Level Adviser of the Year for the second year in a row. That announcement comes after Tullahoma High School Valerie Robinson was recognized as the Tennessee High School Adviser of the Year at the state’s Leadership Conference in April.
“I’ve been a part of FBLA since high school, and it is my life,” Cammack said. “To receive this honor in back-to-back years, there really are no words I can use to express what that means to me. Our new state adviser made this decision after his first year with the organization. Knowing that I made that big of an impression with our Chapter in that short amount of time validates everything that I’ve been doing. I want to thank my students because, without their belief in FBLA, positive attitudes, and hard work, none of what we are doing is possible.”
While Cammack expressed his gratitude for his recognition, some of his students talked about their appreciation for their adviser. According to Jonah, he felt confident ahead of the National Leadership Conference. However, some final words from Cammack helped give him that added boost he needed for his presentation.
“He told me something to the effect of, ‘No matter how your presentation goes, I’m so proud of you,'” Jonah said. “This beautiful message was one that I’d heard many times before, but never had it resonated quite as much as it did then. This same encouragement mirrored the love of my parents, who have always supported me and all my ideas. For this, I will be forever grateful. I think these words of kindness and understanding serve as a testament to what FBLA truly is: a group of smart, hardworking students striving to make our future a better one. It’s not about the awards, medals, suits, and ties; it’s about the amazing experience FBLA offers and the path it sets you on. At that moment, walking down the hallway, I knew in my heart that no matter what happened, I too was proud of how far myself and our Chapter had made it this year.”
Following the conclusion of the National Leadership Conference, TCS Director of Schools Dr. Catherine Stephens was overjoyed when she read the results. She added her congratulations to all FBLA students and faculty participants on what she called an incredible competition season.
“What a banner year this has been for our FBLA organizations at both the middle and high school levels,” Stephens said. “We are so proud of our students, their advisers, and families who supported them along the way. These accolades through FBLA certainly align with the Tullahoma City Schools’ vision of preparing students today for a limitless tomorrow. The future is bright with these students leading the way.”
Picture: Joining the students for a photo is their Adviser, Franklin Cammack (front row, left). Students in the photo are front row, Jonah Rathjen Vallejos; Middle row, from left: Samantha Johnson and Brayton Arant; Back row: Edward Henry, Hayden Good, and Jessica Jones.