Elgin girls FLBA

Elgin High School students Aleiana Devin, left, and Hannah Callaham talk Thursday at the Future Business Leaders of America Regional Skills Conference at Eastern Oregon University, La Grande. The annual competition drew students from across Eastern Oregon.

LA GRANDE — Public elevators are impossible to find in Imbler but not seventh- and eighth-grade students able to make compelling presentations while riding them.

This was evident Thursday during the elevator speech competition at the Future Business Leaders of America Blue Mountain Regional Skills Conference at Eastern Oregon University. Three Imbler School District eighth-graders and one seventh-grader placed in the top six at the event in La Grande. Eighth-graders Kale Bingaman took first, Henry Treat took fifth and Dallin Rasmussen placed sixth, and seventh-grader Tayler Bowles finished third. 

Each entrant in the competition, open only to seventh- and eighth-graders, gave an "elevator pitch" about FBLA — brief persuasive speeches to spark interest in what the organization does. The speeches could be only 30 seconds, the time a four-story elevator ride might take. 

"It was hard to get everything you wanted to say in 30 seconds," Treat said. 

Jennifer Teeter, the adviser for Imbler’s FBLA chapter, said the elevator speech competition is a great starting event for young students to learn of the importance of being able to express themselves quickly and in an compelling manner in the business world.

"It is a great skill to learn at an early age," said Teeter, a business teacher at Imbler High School.

Imbler was one of 11 school districts at the regional skills conference, which was open to students in grades seven through 12. Entrants from Union High School included senior Zac Johnston, who competed in the E-business event, in which participants present a business plan for a fictitious online company. Johnston proposed plans for an online rental business.

During his talk he aimed to develop a rapport with the three-judge panel evaluating him. He said adding a personal touch to his presentation helps judges relate to him better. 

The UHS senior has been in the Future Business organization since his freshman year and has competed in four regional skills competitions. He said he has enjoyed them immensely because they provide an opportunity for him to give presentations on work he is proud of and to be with friends who support one another. Johnston said at the conference he was as busy following the progress of his friends as he was competing in events.

Cove High School junior Haiden Wiggins, who participated in the speech competition, also said the event was a delightful experience. 

"Public speaking is something I really enjoy. It was fun to have this opportunity," she said. 

The CHS junior spoke about how being in FBLA has boosted her confidence and helped her grow as a person. She could not speak with judges during her presentation but strived to see herself as having a dialogue with them.

"I think of myself as having a conversation, that makes me less nervous," Wiggins said.  

Students who competed in the mock job interview competition included Erin Coston of Imbler High School and Henry Fager of La Grande High School, who both qualified for the finals. Coston said the experience was valuable because of what she learned.

"It was nerve-racking but definitely worth it," she said.

Job interview entrants submitted fictitious resumes, but Fager added details that reflected his actual work experience, which includes work for a small website design company. He said one of the judges picked up on this and was impressed with his body of work, which boosted his spirits.

"I knew that I had done something right," Fager said.

La Grande School District Superintendent George Mendoza was among those who conducted the job interviews.

"I enjoyed listening and developing an understanding of their backgrounds," he said.

Mendoza said from his perspective it was important for students during the interviews to share why they wanted the job and why they have a passion for the field they were interested in. He also was impressed when students had high energy and showed, by their questions, an interest in determining how they could use their knowledge and skills to help the company they were aiming to work for. 

About 300 students from 11 school districts competed at the regional conference. In addition to the La Grande, Imbler, Cove and Union school districts, the Elgin, Wallowa, Baker, Heppner, Helix, McLoughlin and Vale school districts sent students. FBLA chapters from the Joseph, Nyssa and Ontario school districts could not make it to EOU because of bad weather.   

High finishers at the Thursday’s event qualified for the state FBLA skills conference April 2-4 in Portland.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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