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Middleton senior elected president of 230,000-member national organization

July 18, 2017

The video, hidden deep inside the Middleton High School FBLA club’s website, shows then-freshman Max Michel squirming through a campaign speech. It didn’t go well. An uneasy introduction, followed by dreaded awkward silence.

On that day, Michel lost the election to become district historian for the Future Business Leaders of America. But the setback laid the groundwork for a remarkable turnaround. This month, peers elected the now-rising senior as national president of the Future Business Leaders of America, a 230,000-member student organization.

FBLA is the largest career student organization in the world.

“It’s humbling,” said Michel, who studies computer repair in Middleton’s Pre-Collegiate STEM Academy. “Celebratory but also humbling.”

His FBLA chapter adviser had a different word on the accomplishment: “Huge.”

“It puts an exclamation on how powerful our program is,” said Tayo Akinrefon, who teaches computer systems information technology. “Now people know who we are.”

Nationally, that familiarity starts with Michel, the face of an organization of students exploring careers in business, technology and related areas. To win the three-person race, Michel recruited a team of helpers from throughout the state, including friends from nearby King High School. They worked on outreach ahead of time and staffed a campaign booth at National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California.

Michel also had to give a speech – gulp – to a room of 12,000 students and educators.

Two years of growth and a supportive adviser made the difference.

“The presidential speech benefitted from the fact that I had an adviser who learned from my mistakes freshman year and worked closely with me to reverse and prepare far ahead of time,” Michel said.

As president, Michel wants to do a better job of including FBLA’s international chapters. He wants to help carry to banner for ensuring lawmakers provide funding to support career and technical education. He also wants to be an accessible leader of his peers, something that guided a campaign strategy that began, he said, with being genuine and “having an authentic character.”

“I would want someone who seems like a friend to be a national officer,” he said.

Michel’s term will run through the summer 2018 National Leadership Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. By then, he’ll be graduated from Middleton and hopefully heading to Florida State University, where he wants to study economics and eventually law. At least that’s the plan right now.

Michel, the fifth in a seven-child family from New Tampa, applied for Middleton as an eighth-grader without ever telling his parents. The school provided him the support he needed to excel.

“This student’s accomplishment is a testament to the support of his fellow students, advisers, administrators and district staff,” said Chris Jargo, director of Career and Technical Education for Hillsborough County Public Schools. “We are looking forward to Max Michel's leadership in National FBLA throughout the 2017-2018 school year.”

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