Indian River High School is getting down to business. This spring, 10 students earned a trip to the 2018 Business Professionals of America (BPA) National Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas.
BPA extends classroom learning to test real-world skills in business, tech, leadership, citizenship and academics.
IR’s winners included Gavin Clattenburg (first place, Extemporaneous Speech); Brooke Weaver (first place, Interview Skills); Alexa Fitz (second place, Entrepreneurship); Luke Morgan (second place, Banking & Finance); Morgan Bartholomew, Elaina Lopez, Jabes Lopez and Josue Lopez (second place, Video Production); Isaac Chandler (third place, PC Servicing & Troubleshooting); and Nick Marchetti (third place, Entrepreneurship). Their teacher advisors are Jeff Bunting and Steve Kilby.
“I’m really thrilled that the students put forth the effort,” Bunting said. “They’re not just showing up and giving a presentation. The students are putting in a lot of their own personal time. We’re talking evenings and weekends. They’re taking wheat they’ve learned in the classroom … to the next level.”
Although their state competition day ran from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., “The kids were absolute models of conduct. They were absolutely professional,” donning suits to compete, some for the first time, Bunting noted.
BPA, he said, is producing better public speakers, with more confidence, since so many of them must present to judges.
“Any presentation, any test — you just gotta walk in with confidence. I think all of us definitely do that,” Weaver said. “I definitely see a lot of future success in the organization with all the freshmen that just came in. I mean, they’re already at nationals, so it’s pretty awesome!”
“Everybody should join BPA!” said Josue Lopez.
In all, 24 IR students competed at the State Leadership Conference in Dover on Feb. 27. Nationals are May 9 to 14. Delaware’s delegation will network and learn alongside other U.S. students.
BPA is a serious time commitment. Students started working in September, after school, on weekends and between their other commitments, to sports, student government, clubs and regular academics.
Winning second place in Video Production were Morgan Bartholomew, Elaina Lopez, Jabes Lopez and Josue Lopez (no relation).
All of the teams had to create a video on the importance of sleep. Bunting joked that the topics are often dull, probably to test the students’ creativity.
But IR delivered. Judges were impressed with the video production and the students’ on-site interview. Their video included funny bits with other students, but also a serious interview with a school nurse. If they are named finalists, they’ll have just four hours to make another short video while they’re in Dallas.
Bartholomew said she wasn’t initially interested in video production, but after three years, she’s planning to study it in college, and her footage has already appeared in local commercials and news.
Isaac Chandler went in with cool confidence, having participated in middle school, but now placing third in PC Servicing & Troubleshooting, despite forgetting to bring a tech manual this year to the competition.
The one-hour paper test asked about “diagnosing computer errors, what steps do you go through to fix the thing,” Chandler explained.
Brooke Weaver earned first place for Interview Skills, which tested her job-hunting abilities. She interviewed for an administrative assistant position at an imaginary firm.
Initially during practice, she would rely too heavily on written notes, until “I ripped up my answers and threw them away, and I sat down with Mr. Bunting and Mr. Kilby,” which helped her think on her feet in competition, she said.
Alexa Fitz and Nick Marchetti earned second and third places, respectively, in the Entrepreneurship research project. They spent months writing a full business plan for a brand-new venture, including goals, financial background, licenses, equipment, the local market, potential problems and more.
Having placed nationally in the past, Fitz doubled the 15-page limit by writing extensive appendices. She earned second place for her plan for a food truck featuring seafood delicacies, such as lobster rolls, crabcakes and shrimp salad.
“Off-season is a big problem, though,” Fitz said. Tourists “all leave, so you’re left with not a whole lot of people to make money from. So, I established a catering system … so I could still make money during the offseason.”
Marchetti earned third place for his firearms-store and shooting-range business plan.
“You have to think about what people want and how you’re going to get them to buy your product,” said Marchetti, adding that he sees many local hunters but few gun stores or training areas in Sussex County.
Gavin Clattenburg had to think fast to win a gold medal in Extemporaneous Speech, in which contestants only have a few minutes to prepare a two-minute speech on an assigned topic.
“It’s pretty much a game of… if you know what you’re talking about, that’s great. But if you don’t, you just have to sound confident in it,” Clattenburg said. “It’s less about selling your research skills and more about selling your personality.”
His general format is to start with a personal story, elaborate on three talking points and then add a strong conclusion.
Six students also earned the prestigious Torch Award in Delaware, recognizing leadership, service, cooperation, knowledge, friendship, patriotism, as well as love, hope and faith: Madison Baker, Morgan Bartholomew, Gavin Clattenburg, Helen Davis, Alexa Fitz and Luke Morgan.
Besides competing, students also attended various workshops and seminars on college transition, personal finance and business skills.
Public help needed
Sending 10 students and Coach Kilby to Dallas carries a hefty price tag. IR has such a strong team that they must fundraise year-round, including a Color Run on June 2, plus a golf tournament in September.
This spring, students have led the charge in fundraising with the “10 For 20 BPA Nationals Fundraiser.” They’re selling $20 tickets to a raffle drawing for a brand-new Apple iPhone X.
Everyone wants this $1,000 phone, Morgan said, calling it “the mack daddy of the phones you can buy; the most expensive phone you can buy; the newest, the nicest, the highest capacity…” If not, the winner can sell it.
Morgan sees this as the real test, as the teenagers fuel the fundraiser with their new business skills.
“Understanding the numbers and how to market to people has really put everything together,” said Morgan, who earned second place in Banking & Finance, a paper test given before the state conference.
Information on the fundraiser is online at www.facebook.com/10for20NF. Payment is accepted via cash, check and PayPal. The live drawing will be held April 28 at 6 p.m. at Hooked Up Ale House & Raw Bar in Millville. Entrants do not have to be present to win.
“Thank you to our coaches, students and people who have come to help us, inside and outside the organization,” Morgan said. “And if you’re reading this, share our Facebook page relentlessly!”
Anyone wishing to sponsor the Indian River High School BPA can contact Jeff Bunting at (302) 732-1500.