What you might not expect is that he would be just 17 years old, and still in high school.
Max Michel is all of the above, having recently been elected as president of the national Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) organization.
“I serve our 250,000 members and work with other officers to create programs for our members,” Max explains. “I also work with the national board of directors, comprised of educators, CEOs, industry representatives and other professionals, to help steer the long-term strategies for the organization as a whole.”
Max has lived with his family in Tampa Palms since 2005, before he entered kindergarten at Chiles Elementary. He then attended Liberty Middle School. When it was time for high school, he chose the magnet program at Middleton High, located on N. 22nd St. in Tampa.
It was through his FBLA chapter at Middleton that Max pursued the chance to lead the national organization. He was elected president during the group’s National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, CA, on July 2, and immediately began his one-year term.
The National Leadership Conference comes after the District and State conferences. “FBLA gives students the opportunity to compete on District, State and National levels in 65 different events that cover everything from public speaking to healthcare,” Max says. “It allows students to find their niche.”
He adds that every year, the national competition is “awe-inspiring. There are about 13,000 people there, and you see diverse faces and cultures and backgrounds and how hard they all work to have made it that far.”
First, he had to qualify on the state level, where he was chosen to be the candidate for president from the state of Florida. He went up against candidates from Oregon and Arizona for the national honor.
While Max only campaigned during the conference itself, he did a lot to prepare, including writing the speech he would give at a general session in front of all of the attendees.
As a freshman, Max had run for District office and, when it was time to give his speech in front of a much smaller crowd, he says he completely forgot it. “I blanked out,” he says. “It was so embarrassing.”
But, that was one of the things that spurred him to work on his public speaking and other skills.
“I grew a lot because of the leadership skills I’ve learned through FBLA,” says Max. So much so, that he says his school’s FBLA chapter adviser, Tayo Akinrefon, recommended that Max run for national president going into his senior year. “I thought he was joking, but he was super serious,” Max says. “That inspired me.”
“I worked on my public speaking a lot,” he adds. “Despite me not being the best speaker, I can connect with people on a genuine and authentic level, and I definitely have that desire to connect, regardless of culture or race or background.”
So, Max worked to make those connections with people at the conference, and this time, he was able to give the speech he had prepared without freezing or forgetting it.
When the voting was over, Max had won.
He says that has a specific goal for his time in office.
“I want to reach out to urban communities, which are currently underserved by FBLA,” he says. “Our end goal is to reach as many students as possible. We partner with other leadership programs and we want to offer resources for schools that are harder hit by issues such as poverty.” In the long-term, he says, that would mean allocating funds to charter chapters in those currently underserved areas.
He says that across the nation, there are some large cities that only have one or two FBLA chapters. Even his own school has room to grow in that area. “Most of our membership comes from the magnet program, and we want to diversify,” he says.
A Born Leader
Max comes from a large family, one of seven siblings, and he and his older brother are close enough in age that they both will graduate from high school this year. Alejandro, whom Max calls Alex, is currently a senior at Freedom High. Max says he and Alex are hoping to both attend Florida State University in Tallahassee next year. The two high school boys have two older sisters and an older brother, as well as two younger brothers, ages three and five.
He says being one of seven siblings has helped his leadership skills, whether it’s dividing up chores for the week or taking turns babysitting. “Being part of a big family, I’ve learned things like how to speak up for myself and being ready to help when needed,” he adds.
While he doesn’t yet know what career he’ll pursue after college, he’s sure of one thing. “Whatever job I have,” he says. “I want to make a lasting influence on people’s lives and do whatever I can to help others.”