What do a college student from rural Iowa, a high school senior interested in entrepreneurship and a 20-year-old transplant from New England have in common? They are all currently serving as national officers in career and technical student organizations.

National officers in career and technical student organizations, better known as CTSOs, are prestigious, high-value positions and require student leaders to endure extensive rounds of applications, interviews and meetings with stakeholders to demonstrate their leadership capabilities. In their roles as national officers, student leaders provide guidance and insight to state and local chapters, organize national events and set goals for their organizations. This year, Iowa has three CTSO officers serving at the national level, featuring two in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and one in FFA.*

Kanyon Huntington, FFA national officer
Kanyon Huntington, FFA national officer

“Although the interview process was nerve wracking, this will be an incredible experience serving as a national officer for FFA,” said Kanyon Huntington, 21, FFA central region vice president. “I am one of six FFA national leaders and want to make an impact by creating a space for everyone to grow and feel included.”

Huntington is a senior at Iowa State University and has been a part of FFA, a CTSO focused on agriculture leadership and development, since his freshman year at East Union High School in Afton. Over the past eight years as an FFA member, Huntington has served as a chapter, district and state officer and feels that his experiences within FFA have helped develop his skills, both personally and professionally.

“Being a part of FFA is a great way to step outside of your comfort zone, whether you grew up on a farm or not,” he said. “Ag and FFA are more than just farming. I’ve learned so much about policy, science, research and innovative technology as well as who I am as a person and leader.”

Career and technical student organizations help to enhance career and technical education (CTE) programs and provide opportunities for students to apply the skills they have developed in classrooms through conferences, competitions, community service events, worksite visits and other activities. Participation in CTSOs can help students explore potential career paths, make connections in the community and strengthen desirable soft skills, such as communication, organization, time management and more.

“Iowa has outstanding student members within our eight CTSOs,” said Dennis Harden, chief of the Bureau of Community Colleges and Postsecondary Readiness at the Iowa Department of Education. “Having not one but three national officers from the state of Iowa shows that CTSOs can make an impact in developing leadership, technical and professional skills with students.

“It is wonderful to see these three talented student leaders selected for prominent, national roles that will help shape their CTSOs over the next year.”

Anika Yadav, FBLA national officer
Anika Yadav, FBLA national officer

For Waukee High School senior Anika Yadav, 17, being elected as the north central region vice president for FBLA will be a big task, but she is up for the challenge.

“I will help to oversee eight states in the Midwest,” she said. “FBLA serves over 200,000 student members globally, and I’m looking forward to addressing gaps for accessing resources and increasing chapter involvement.”

Anika is in her fourth year as a member of FBLA, and she believes her time within the organization has supported her growth.

“In FBLA, I have a feeling of belonging where I can grow and understand my leadership style,” she said. “They emphasize the importance of developing a service mentality, which is an important part of being a national officer, and I’ve really learned about communication and relationship-building. Having those real-world skills has helped me develop my critical thinking and strengthen partnerships with others.”  

Anika has noted that her role as a national officer is beneficial not only for her own professional development but is also a bonus for promoting Iowa in general.

“It’s a proud moment to have someone who can represent Iowa and increase our state’s recognition at the national level,” she said. “There is such a talent pipeline amongst young Iowans, and it’s great that I can help showcase that nationally.”

Benjamin Pellizzari, FBLA national officer
Benjamin Pellizzari, FBLA national officer

Likewise, Benjamin Pellizzari, FBLA vice president of communication and a native of the east coast, has been in Iowa for three years and understands the potential of his fellow Iowa State University FBLA members. He sees his role as an FBLA national officer as an opportunity to help other college students make connections to their future careers.

“At the collegiate level in FBLA, it’s all about expanding your horizons in the professional world,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to develop as a professional while making valuable connections and charting your next steps. Whether we are entering into a career, internship, graduate school or something that benefits society, FBLA can help prepare us for our lives post-college.”  

Pellizzari notes that FBLA has been critical to his success as a leader and for strengthening his confidence and professional skills.

“I used to be a shy kid,” he said. “But now, I feel confident speaking with the media, in job interviews or in front of a crowd. This is useful for anyone looking to enter into the business world or other career.”

Along with the development of professional and technical skills, Pellizzari also states that being a part of a CTSO can bring a bigger picture of unity, which is an area he will emphasize during his time as a national officer.

“The leadership team is a diverse group from all over the country, but there’s so much unity,” he said. “We’re six friends working together, using our teamwork skills and being leaders. It’s why I’m a part of FBLA. We can work together and be proud of what we will do over the next year.”

The future is bright for Huntington, Anika and Pellizzari, not only for this year serving as national officers but also beyond into their potential college and career pathways. Huntington plans to attend law school after graduation from Iowa State next May and is passionate about being a voice for the voiceless. He anticipates working in policy and governance and is looking at environmental or civil rights law. Pellizzari is a business analytics major and is weighing his options for law school or a master’s program in business administration after he graduates in 2026. Anika is set to graduate from Waukee in the spring and is looking forward to enrolling in a four-year institution to learn more about how she can shape entrepreneurship for young people.

Their experiences as national officers and members of CTSOs will help to prepare them for these important future steps, and they are ready to share what they have learned with others.

“We’re here for our members,” Huntington said. “Being a national officer is cool, but helping individuals find opportunities to grow as members and as people is the best part.”

*Business Professionals of America (BPA) has also selected two outstanding Iowa students, Abby Renoux and John Woodward, to serve as national officers for this year.