Dear Georgia FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America),

Thank you for everything you have done for me.

When I first joined your ranks, I was a scared freshman. I was overwhelmed by high school, unsure where I fit and had a vague interest in business from a purely monetary perspective, not knowing at all who I even wanted to be. I was nervous because I wanted to make more friends than middle school and excited because I had heard so much about you. So I joined at club fair, paid my money and attended the first meeting.

In true freshman style, I not only attended every meeting (our chapter had a banquet that year, and I got a recognition for that punctuality!) but was guilted into competing. I dubiously entered my social media campaign project in, and the rest was history. Even though I placed a lonely fifth — which I saw via live stream (yeah, I actually did live stream the awards) - just the act of doing all of this had more of an impact on me than I ever could imagine. And it didn't even bother me so badly that I was one spot away from nationals; I was proud of how far I had managed to get on my own, and I never looked back.

This weekend, I attended my very last state leadership conference. I have competed all four years, and, for the second time, my team qualified for Nationals this year. I am now chapter co-president and helped one of my vice presidents and close friends run for state president as his campaign manager (he is now secretary). As I sat in the awards, surrounded by people I respect and am excited to see thrive, it hit me again how much I owe to this organization.

The first time I realized that FBLA had changed me was at the beginning of this year, struggling to find the words to convince new freshmen to join. Yet it wasn't a struggle; I have become more confident, much more articulate, organized and prepared to take initiative because of FBLA. I have delved into my interests in hospitality and business administration deep enough to place top-two in the state without needing to take an actual class, and the problem-solving ability that I have acquired through completing these case studies will serve me for the rest of my life.

But more so than competitions, I have gotten to know people at my school. I can now small-talk with people and am not crippled by anxiety when I need to give a presentation. I believe that I can think on my feet and respond in high-pressure situations. I can make decisions that otherwise I would have delegated or deferred to others to resolve. I have become a leader, confident and capable.

Although business may or may not be where my interests lie, the knowledge I now have about the world and myself have made my time in FBLA not just worthwhile but beautiful. In hindsight, the only thing I would change would be the effort I gave to competitions — because winning is fun.

We always joke that being former members of FBLA brings people together and forms a bridge where there was once a chasm. Yet I genuinely know that when I find someone in the future who can tell me that they were once a member of FBLA, I will have a lot to say to them, and we will have a unique connection from then on.

Thank you again for the personal growth, life lessons and fun memories.

A Graduating Senior.