Students bring home fourth state trophy in four years

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Mark Tode, Kelly Skoglund and Armin Takallou represent Tualatin High Schools dominant Future Business Leaders of America program.Since 2001, Tualatin High School’s Future Business Leaders of America club has claimed victory at the 6A state level. This year saw the club’s ninth state championship in 13 years.

With 105 members, it is the largest club at TuHS and the biggest of its kind in the state. Of these members, 55 competed at the state competition this year in downtown Portland.

“This is probably the students’ first exposure to the real business world,” said TuHS senior and FBLA President Armin Takallou. “Basically taking their classroom education and extending it outside the classroom; seeing the different applications of where their knowledge can take them.”

This was true for Mark Toda, another senior and the club’s marketing and communications officer.

“Before I joined FBLA, I didn’t really know that much about business, and I didn’t even have that much of an interest for it,” he said. “Once I joined it, pretty much right off the bat, I developed this passion for business. It really kind of brought that whole interest field into my life.”

In the fall, Toda will be heading to the University of Washington and joining its business school, something he acknowledges might not be happening if it hadn’t been for TuHS’s business program and FBLA.

Since opening in 1992, the school has offered business classes and continued to grow the program even while other schools were scaling back.

“What gets cut first in public schools? Electives,” said FBLA advisor Jim McCaffery. “All humility aside, we have outstanding (business) instructors, and our kids want to be with them and they want to learn from them. Kudos to our administration for valuing this type of elective at this level. Honestly.”

Takallou and Toda agree that the extensive business program is much of why their club continues to excel, as club members often choose to compete in the areas they’ve taken classes on.

Another aspect of the students’ success lies in their dedication. According to McCaffery, an FBLA season at TuHS is 11 months long, beginning with its first meeting in August and concluding with the national competition, which runs into July. Takallou and Toda are both attending nationals this summer, which are held in Nashville, Tennessee, along with nine other club members out of 22 who qualified.

FBLA Vice President Kelly Skoglund has been a member of the club since her freshman year. Though unable to attend nationals, in the fall Skogland starts at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

“What kind of intrigued me into the business world was just how broad it is and how you can do so many different things with it,” Skoglund said. “Pretty much everyone needs the networking of business, no matter what field you go into.”

Aside from investing in their professional futures, the students in the group make a concerted effort to volunteer. This year, through the leadership of the club’s 12 officers, $1,800 was raised for March of Dimes and donated to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Through their fundraising efforts, the officers made teachable moments out of everything and showed how skills like communication and networking are useful in numerous avenues.

“What this club has taught me is that you have to be a business person, whatever you do and in order to become successful in what you do,” said Takallou, who will be majoring in biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. “You have to have that passion, that drive, that leadership, in order to take yourself out of your comfort zone (and) excel.”

Next year, the returning members hope to continue the winning tradition set by their predecessors, said McCaffery, but each year it gets more difficult.

If 2015 brings home a championship, it will be the fifth in a row, tying for the longest streak in the Tualatin club’s history.

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