Even though he’s only a sophomore in high school, AJ JensenLopez of Bainbridge Island is a national champion.
Not in a sport – but in accounting.
AJ recently won the title as a member of the BHS Future Business Leaders of America team.
He decided to compete in accounting because, “It’s the most interesting to me.”
He went to state as a freshman then studied a lot on the FBLA website.
“I had some prior knowledge,” he said, helping his dad’s local business as a summer job.
Club advisor Kim Rose said he’s only her third national champion in 21 years.
She said what makes AJ’s feat even more amazing is there isn’t even enough interest in accounting at the school for it to be taught. So he did it on his own.
“We haven’t taught it for years” at BHS, she said.
Rose said the club meets every other week after school for about an hour. Many of the 30 members are involved in sports, too, like AJ, so they do a lot of their learning online.
Rose said she can have up to 60 members on the team, but many didn’t join because state was during spring break.
“A lot of the seniors did not want to give up their last spring break,” she said.
Asked why students join FBLA, Rose honestly said because it looks good on their resumes and college applications, along with they enjoy the overnight state conference.
“They have a good time meeting other kids from around the state,” she said.
Speaking of state, AJ also excelled there, winning crowns in accounting and accounting II.
“He’s one of my financially minded students,” she said.
He also placed second in introduction to business, second in introduction to business procedures, sixth in business communications and seventh in economics.
Teammate Stephen Reinhardt won state titles in cyber security and networking concepts.
The group had 25 Top 10 finishes. “Yea, we killed it,” Rose said.
AJ said the FBLA rules say he will have to pick a new topic next year as a result of his title, for which he won a trophy and a scholarship.
Anyone who places in the top four qualifies for nationals, but can only pick one event.
Nationals were supposed to be in Salt Lake City, Utah, this year, but it was changed to an online competition because of the threat of COVID-19.
Reinhardt and Andrew Ward went for the second-straight year, while Alex Maher, Owen Rector, Nick Hughes and Elisabeth Leung went for the first time.
She said they missed out though.
“It’s so sad they missed going across the stage with eight to ten thousand people and have them cheer for them,” she said.
Rose said school closing in March didn’t hurt the club too much because most of their work is done online. She said the students do most of the work.
“I sit back and smile most of the time,” she said. “If things go sideways I veer it back to where it should go.”
Rose is especially proud of them considering what’s going on in the world right now.
“The kids are out there doing something positive during all this chaos,” she said.
AJ also is involved in another project this summer as part of the Student Equity Cohort with the Association of Washington Student Leaders.
“He’s just loving the program,” Rose said, adding classmate Aiyana Brumley also was chosen to be part of the cohort. “Let’s see what they can bring to Bainbridge High School when it comes to access and equity.”
AJ said the 30-member statewide group has been meeting weekly via Zoom this summer, sharing their experiences.
“It’s inspiring,” he said.
The mission of the cohort is to come up with ideas to provide equal opportunity for students so they can be successful, he said.
AJ said he’s been able to share that he is more fortunate than many others in the state because his school district offers Wifi and drive-by lunches.
“Others did not have that,” he said, adding, “That reflects on our community.”