CLYMER, N.Y. — Even though they were born two years apart, Stephanie Gilkinson and Vanessa Barton share the same birthday — July 17.
The two girls received a birthday present they will never forget while representing Clymer Central School at the national convention of the Future Business Leaders of America in Nashville, Tenn., July 13-17.
Gilkinson, who graduated in June, and Barton, who will be a junior at Clymer, earned a national eighth-place award for their Clymer Chapter’s Annual Report, a 30-page business report that summarized all the organization’s projects for the past year.
The report won a second-place award at the 2010 New York state convention, earning Gilkinson and Barton the right to enter the report at the national level.
“That took a lot of time and effort,” said Gilkinson, who co-wrote the report with Barton after gleaning information from all 16 chapter members. “We thought, ‘Happy birthday to us!’ What a great birthday.”
“It was fun,” Barton added. “I had my whole family with me and we all were nervous. It was very exciting.”
Barton is no stranger to the national spotlight. She won a fourth-place national award in 2009 in the same annual report category.
Although she was surprised to win another national award, she said attention to detail is the key to preparing an award-winning business report.
“It took a while,” said Barton, who hopes to take business courses when she goes to college after her senior year. “We had to make sure all the information was in it. We had to proofread it and make sure there were no mistakes. We had to go through it and through it.”
Clymer’s FBLA also celebrated a significant birthday this year, turning 20 years old. Clymer business teacher and founding FBLA adviser Lisa Perry said the recent national award is the latest in a long string of successes for the organization.
FBLA is a nonprofit educational association that prepares students for careers in business and business-related fields. FBLA is the largest business career organization in the world.
Perry said the Clymer FBLA chapter has won 13 national awards, including first-place awards in 1994 and 2006, and more than 100 awards at the state level. To win a national award, a chapter must finish in the top 10 of all entries from around the nation in a particular category.
Also, two students from Clymer have served as national officers. Clymer junior Rebekah Wallace currently is serving her second term as state vice president for District 13, which covers Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegheny counties.
Wallace won a second-place state award in the FBLA Principles and Procedures category and accompanied Perry, Gilkinson and Barton to Nashville. She did not place nationally.
Winning a national award in the annual report category is a prestigious honor, Perry said. The award is equivalent to the Chapter of the Year award given at the state level. Clymer’s 2009-10 annual report covered all of its activities, which included a blood drive, monthly fun nights for fifth- through eighth-graders, changing the school’s marquee each week, and conducting an Internet safety course.
“The judges are nitpicky,” Perry said. “Everything you do as a chapter goes into that report.”
While winning state and national awards are validations of the Clymer FBLA’s work ethic, Perry said lessons learned in FBLA may be more important than the actual trophies.
“In FBLA, we apply what is being taught in the classroom to real life,” Perry said. “Students improve themselves and it helps them with their careers. It also helps the community.”
Gilkinson, who will be a freshman at Mercyhurst North East this fall, was an FBLA member for six years at Clymer. She said her FBLA experience should help her in her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.
“I’m glad Mrs. Perry talked me into it,” Gilkinson said. “I’ve learned ways to lead and encourage other people.”
During the national convention, Perry was honored for her 20 years of leadership. She was named to the National FBLA Advisers Hall of Fame at the National FBLA headquarters in Reston, Va.
To receive the honor, a chapter adviser must be nominated by a peer, have served a minimum of 20 years as a local chapter adviser, and be involved in various ways on the state and national levels.
Perry said she’s proud of what the Clymer FBLA has accomplished in the past two decades.
“Twenty years ago, nobody knew what was FBLA was,” Perry said. “Now I’m seeing second-generation children coming through the program. And the community is taking pride in us. That makes me feel good.”