When current Joint Student Leadership (JSL) President Cree Milliron was a freshman at Burley High School, becoming a leader wasn’t on his radar. He’d never heard of career technical student organizations (CTSOs) in general or Business Professionals of America (BPA) in particular. He knew he loved graphic design, though, so when his web design teacher, Janet Cole, who also served as his school’s BPA advisor, encouraged him to join to show off the skills he’d acquired in her class, he jumped in with both feet and ran for chapter officer.
Though he didn’t get the position, he stuck with BPA and discovered he loved the competitions and meeting other students with the same interests as him from across the state.
“Competitions gave me the opportunity and confidence to bring my ideas to life,” said Milliron. “It was also overwhelming to see how many other students had the same interests and values as me.”
His first year was such a positive experience that Milliron ran for chapter officer again during his sophomore year and was elected chapter president. Though planning and running meetings were valuable foundations for his burgeoning leadership skills, Milliron discovered his real purpose was working with other members and sharing his passion and experience with them.
“Being involved with BPA has done so much for me,” said Milliron. “I wanted to inspire new members to see the value in joining, too.”
After two years, Milliron decided to take on more responsibility and became a State Officer. In this elevated role, he had more opportunities to interact with BPA members from across the state and get more involved with staff at the Idaho Division of Career Technical Education. Plus, he had the opportunity to meet State Officers from other CTSOs.
“When I first joined BPA, I had no idea what it was, much less that there were other CTSOs for other career pathways,” said Milliron. “Serving as a State Officer let me see that we have so much in common. We were all passionate about advocating for our organization and giving other students somewhere to belong, no matter what they’re interested in.”
Now a senior, Milliron has continued to grow and develop as a leader and competed in two BPA National Leadership Conferences. In 2021, Milliron placed third in Promotional Photography, and his team placed seventh in Web Design. He also earned third place in Graphic Design Promotion at the 2022 State Leadership Conference.
His increasing responsibility and experiences in state and national competitions improved his leadership and communication skills and his self-confidence.
“I’ve watched myself come to life over the last four years. People always told me I was a good leader, but now I’ve had some experiences to prove that was true,” said Milliron.
Milliron is still deciding what to do after graduating, but he knows that whatever path he chooses, his experiences with CTSOs in high school will give him the skills and confidence to succeed.
“When I first joined, it was daunting to run for office or sign up for a competition. I had so many self-doubts,” said Milliron. “I remember thinking, ‘You can’t run for office; you don’t have any experience,’ or ‘You can’t win this competition; you just joined.’ But CTSOs aren’t designed for people who already know what they’re doing. They’re for people trying to figure out what they’re good at and passionate about.”