Accidental Ac Lab encounter leads FBLA accolades


Photo Courtesy of Shirah Ramaji

At the Springfield Expo Center, freshmen Shirah Ramaji and Samir Shaik pose with State medals. Ramaji and Shaik were partners in the Intro to Social Media Strategies category and were the only members of their club to make it to State. “It was a cool experience, and I got to share it with my good friend. I had a good time when I was there,” Shaik said.

Hoping to get help from business teacher Laura Strickland during AcLab, freshman Shirah Ramaji unknowingly walked into a Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) club meeting. FBLA is a program that helps promote students toward business careers. After overhearing the conversations and peer encouragement, Ramaji opted to join the club. This accidental encounter made Ramaji a district champion and a ninth-place State title-holder.

Ramaji and freshman Samir Shaik have been friends since the sixth grade and decided to enter the Intro to Social Media Strategies category. Together, they created a presentation about a basketball charity event and showcased how they would use social media to drive brand awareness. 

“Our presentation outshined [other presentations] because we used platforms that normally people wouldn’t use. We implemented [Youtube] and we made a live stream. People wouldn’t have used Twitter because it’s an older platform, but we did use it, and it showed how unique [the presentation] was,” Ramaji said. 

Before Districts, Ramaji and Shaik forgot that Districts were the next day and finished their presentation the night before. 

“The night before Districts, I FacedTimed Samir, and I said, ‘Samir, we’ve got to do our slideshow for tomorrow. It’s Districts.’ It was insane. It was just us rapidly typing on our Chromebooks,” Ramaji said. 

Districts were initially located at St. Louis University, but their location changed to an online presentation over Zoom. They participated in the Zoom in the business concept center.

“[The room] was crowded, and we didn’t know [if we were] supposed to wear fancy clothes. So, we got on a Zoom call, and we saw everyone in blazers and business dresses. We felt very underdressed because all we wore were some nice shirts,” Shaik said. 

After districts, Ramaji and Shaik received an email saying that they lost. Ten minutes later the story changed. They had earned first place. 

“It was a half-day, and we were going to Panera. Then we got an email saying, ‘you guys didn’t do very well, you guys didn’t even place’ and [Strickland] sent me the ranks. We didn’t even get on the scoreboard. We were bummed out about that. But then we got another email. It said, ‘they messed up the rankings; you guys actually won first place at districts,’” Ramaji said. 

After Districts, Ramaji and Shaik qualified for State, taking place in Springfield, Mo. They fixed their presentation based on the district judges’ feedback. The feedback included having a name for the charity they were going to support and copyright issues.

“It was unreal because I’ve never done anything like it before. It was a lot of dressing up in fancy business clothes and going to the Expo Center. FBLA people took over the entire city. Our hotel was crawling with them,” Shaik said.

Ramaji hopes to get more students to join FBLA. She sees a future for FBLA and hopes that she can personally increase club membership by promoting FBLA to freshmen. 

“Next year, we’re hoping to make it past State and go to Nationals. We’re only freshmen, so we can only go up from here. I’m excited about the future of FBLA,” Ramaji said.