The largest and oldest student business organization in the country will be led by a Dawson County High School student.
Cole Simmons, 16, was elected national president of the Future Business Leaders of America during the organization's National Leadership Conference on Sunday in California.
"I was nervous when they started to announce the winner, but when I heard my name, it became real to me," Simmons said. "I realized that all my hard work and preparation had paid off."
Simmons is the first from Georgia to hold the position in 41 years and the first from Dawson County, according to Ryan Coker, FBLA adviser at the local high school.
Simmons, a rising senior, served as the 2012-13 Georgia FBLA Northwest Area vice president and 2013-14 Georgia FBLA state president. He's also on the Downtown Dawsonville Steering Committee.
The FBLA national conference brought together individuals, state teams and local chapters for a weekend of competition, activities and business and leadership development.
After several rounds of voting for officers Sunday morning, the ballot was narrowed to a few candidates.
"Each round, they removed the candidates with the lowest amount of ballots," Simmons said. "Within three rounds, it was within three votes between me and the next candidate. I had 40 votes and 42 is the majority.
"On the next round of votes, they announced there was a majority and that was the last we heard until that evening."
While he initially did not plan to compete on the national level, it was just the "next progression up" on the path for Simmons.
"I eventually went from chapter to region and then state, so I decided to set my sights on the national president and started planning my campaign and writing my speeches," he said.
Coker never doubted his student's determination.
"Cole set his goal and has been working on this for a couple of years. He's an excellent young student," Coker said. "To be chosen as president from a club with over 200,000 student members, it's a big deal.
"It was nice to see him walk across that stage, representing Dawson County and representing Georgia."
Simmons said he isn't sure if his roles as state-level and national-level president will present any conflicts.
"The conferences for each region are at different times of the year, so I don't think there will be," he said. "The goals for each are separate.
"But if they do conflict, I won't keep the state title. I want to focus overall on making the organization better than when I started."
According to Simmons, he will attend a national office training course to be briefed on his duties as national president before making a definite decision about the state post.
For Simmons, this has been "unquestionably the greatest accomplishment" of his life, one that he has shared with many people along the way.
"To my many supporters, including alumni, friends and family, the school system, connections I have made through this organization, and my campaign manager, thank you for your exceeding support and I could not have done it without you," he said.
"To my local advisers, Ryan Coker and Mrs. [Dianne] Mayfield, and my state adviser, Monty Rhodes, I will forever be grateful and indebted for the opportunities that you have given me from my first day in FBLA and am honored to experience the journey of this next year with you."