TAMPA — Three years ago, Max Michel decided to run for District 4 historian of the Florida Future Business Leaders of America, the largest student career organization in the world.
As he stood before 800 of his peers to deliver his campaign speech, he attempted to speak but nothing would come out. He lost.
In March of this year Max took another run for office, hoping to win the title of state president of the group. He lost again.
Not to be dismayed, three months later Max again pursued an office during FBLA's national leadership conference in Anaheim, Calif., – as national president.
This time, the Middleton High School senior snagged a win.
Max, 17, nabbed 60 percent of the vote to be seated as the top student in the 230,000 student organization.
For Max, the victory was sweet but humbling.
"Looking back, losing the first time opened doors for me," he said during a telephone interview while in Virginia for leadership training. "It showed me how much further I could go."
Winning the presidency was not among Max's goals when he joined FBLA as an eighth grader at Liberty Middle School.
The organization's emphasis on service was the major attraction. FBLA supports March of Dimes as well as other charitable groups and encourages its members to host fundraisers for a variety of causes.
Additional FBLA programs include leadership development and academic competitions.
Max said he is unsure if he wants to pursue a career in business after college. But he credits FBLA for inspiring him to commit to a life of serving others.
"It's been influential in showing me the impact of service," he said.
After losing the race for district historian, Max said he was content to just continue as an active member of FBLA.
But after winning second place in a competitive event, Middleton teacher and FBLA advisor Tayo Akinrefon urged Max to give more speeches and do more networking.
It was necessary prep work for a run for statewide president.
"My teacher pushed me into some uncomfortable positions," Max said.
Akinrefon said Max carries a tenacity and "can-do attitude" that belies his teenage years.
"He does his own thing, runs his own road," he said. "When he wants something, he goes after it."
Max was unsuccessful at capturing the statewide presidency and hesitated when Akinrefon suggested he focus on the national office.
The election was just a few months away. Max had lost twice previously.
"When my teacher told me I'd be running for president I was completely confused," he said.
But Akrinrefon was unwavering in his belief that Max could win the top spot.
"I told him 'you're going for the national'," he said. "Once I gave him that seed, he ran off with it."
In his campaign speech, Max said he talked about his longtime commitment to the organization and his work at the chapter level, which included fundraising efforts.
As president, Max has the opportunity to visit different state chapter conferences as well as travel to FBLA events in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and China.
Max said he looks forward to the travel and a chance to meet students throughout the organization.
But most importantly is the opportunity to serve others, he said.
"I know it's going to fly by," he said of the next year. "But right now I'm just enjoying it."
Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]