Looking to leap to the next level


by David Doremus

Two students from Wilson Memorial High School confer during the FBLA Xchange event in the Festival Ballroom.

SUMMARY: High-school business students spend the morning at JMU sharpening their skills as guests of the Center for Economic Education.

D.C. Lubin played football in high school, unable to resist the lure of the Friday-Night Lights mayhem that has drawn countless other young folk. When football season ended, however, he sought out a more cerebral outlet for his competitive fires.

“I've always been fascinated with finding out about businesses,” Lubin said. “Even as a little kid, I had a little hustle on the side selling shoes.”

So he joined his high school’s chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America, a business-career development organization for high-school students which regularly participates in region-wide competitions organized and facilitated by JMU’s Center for Economic Education.

The CEE is an arm of the College of Business that promotes economic literacy in the Central Shenandoah Valley. John Kruggel, the center’s director, said most of its work is with teachers, for whom it provides training on best practices and methods for economics instruction.

The center’s most recent outreach initiative occurred on Oct. 19, when it welcomed more than 200 students from 11 area high schools for a practice-round “FBLA Xchange” event. In it, students were tested on their ability to create, under strict time-constraints, a product or service with broad appeal capable of generating a robust revenue stream for their respective schools.

Kruggel says the event’s primary purpose was to help prepare FBLA members for the regional round of competition, which takes place in February. In the process, it encouraged the development of leadership ability along with communication skills and aptitude for working as a member of a team.

The gathering also reinforced with students the idea that JMU would be a great place to continue the journey to a business career on which they were already embarked as high-school students in FBLA.

First place in the practice-round event was awarded to a team from Harrisonburg High School, which was recognized for the creativity of its plan to set up a student-staffed valet parking service that could help alleviate traffic congestion at major HHS events.

Both second and third place went to teams from Riverheads High School in Staunton and fourth to a team representing Spotswood High School — D.C. Lubin’s alma mater in McGaheysville.Four high school student present their business idea to a group of judges in the Festival Ballroom.

The competition consisted of five segments, culminating in the formulation of an “elevator pitch.” Teams were given an hour to conceive and prepare their product-plan presentation, including the elevator pitch. Volunteers from local branches of Dupont Community Credit Union served as timers and judges.

“JMU does a great job of guiding them through the day,” said Beth Webb, a business instructor and former FBLA advisor at Spotswood. Many students dress in standard business attire, and quickly learn to feel comfortable sitting and conversing with their counterparts from other schools.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to overcome some of their fears,” Webb said, adding that they leave the event with greater self-confidence, and a newfound pride in the skills they have spent the day sharpening.

“And they’re all eager to come back and do it again,” she said.

Since his Spotswood days, Lubin has gone on to enroll in JMU’s College of Business as a Finance major. He supplements his coursework with an internship at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, a Harrisonburg wealth-management firm.

Lubin said his own experiences at FBLA Xchange events were decisive in determining where he would pursue his post-secondary education.

“I didn’t always want to go to JMU,” he admitted. His mother had been a senior academic administrator at the university, and the impulse to go in a completely different direction was strong.

However, FBLA Xchange and other business competitions hosted by the CEE caused him to “fall in love with the school,” he said.

“The icing on the cake was winning the FBLA regional competition my senior year at Spotswood,” Lubin said. “For our team to go into the ballroom at Festival and win it all was pretty sweet.”

Soon after enrolling at JMU, Lubin learned that John Kruggel would be one of his first-year instructors. He said that, although they hadn’t yet been formally introduced, Kruggel recognized him right away as one of the former Spotswood students who emerged victorious at the previous year’s FBLA Xchange regional competition.

“It was pretty cool to come full circle with that,” Lubin said.

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Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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