BTHS Future Business Leaders of America complete first in a series of service projects

As part of Chick-fil-A’s Leader Academy program, FBLA students will spend 10 months learning business skills that focus on community impact

Ten students. One-hundred meals. Twenty minutes. For Burlington Township High School’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter, these aren’t merely numbers, but an accomplishment on a long to-do list.

Thanks to the help of local Chick-fil-A franchise owner Jamie Gottschling, FBLA advisor Robert Carson and his students have the privilege of participating in the company’s Leader Academy, a national high school leadership program focused on impact through action. This month, the students tackled the service axiom of FBLA by packing meals for the Food Bank of South Jersey.

“One of the things that I’m always looking for my students to give is some kind of service project, whether it’s doing something around the school or a community project. I know past clubs have helped seniors fill out their tax forms and held special events, so I’m always looking for service projects to do,” Carson said.

His relationship with Gottschling, who employs several FBLA students, provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the responsibility of businesses to serve their communities. Carson, also a business teacher at BTHS, said the food packing service project was just one of three in the training program.

“The core of the project is community service and making a difference with that organization. We try to work with various groups to expose our students to various ways to make a difference,” said Liz Scott, director of human resources and community relations and district affirmative action officer at Burlington Township Public Schools.

Chick-fil-A’s Leader Academy provides all materials and is divided into seven “leadership labs,” where students are taught the skills they need to carry out the three community projects over the course of 10 months. The labs focus on “vision and values,” “servant leadership,” “teamwork,” “innovation,” “communication,” “impact” and planning for the future outside the program.

“Leader Academy provides teachers with a way to provide training for their business students,” Carson added. “They give you the curriculum, and they make it really simple.”

The holiday season signals a much-needed break for many students, but for the Leader Academy participants at BTHS, there is no slowing down. Carson and his students are preparing for the “Do Good December” service project. Carson said though the plan isn’t firmed up yet, he and his team of community-minded future business leaders will be doing something beneficial for the community.

“This is a service project that emphasizes teamwork by asking students to ‘Drive, Do, and Deliver’ during the holiday season. Together, students have planned toy drives, volunteer days, and delivered meals,” the program said.

At the end of this fast-moving, challenging program, students will apply the leadership lessons they learned to execute a final service project of their own creation. As for Carson, the experience is a reward in itself.

“It’s great for me because I feel like I’m both giving back to the community and teaching the kids to think differently,” he said. “Business is not just about the profit. I ask my students, ‘Are you in it for the money or for a higher calling?’ I hope they will all be able to say the latter.”