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15 BPA winners heading to states

Front Row (from left): Chelsea Mechan, Taylor Wilson, Georgia Thelen, Connor Beltramo, Erin Jones and Mickey Mlinac. Back Row (from left): Jessica Brasington, Rachel Saigh, Lauren Ubbing, Jake Stumph, Everett Wilder, Julian Jackson, Joe Lint and Elena Simovski. Not pictured: Joey Tasch. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
January 19, 2011 - If the next Donald Trump or Bill Gates is being molded at Oxford High, they're most likely a member of the school's Business Professionals of America (BPA) chapter.

Fifteen of the club's 25 members qualified for BPA's state competition by placing at the Regional 7 competition held Jan. 7 at Baker College in Flint.

"We were delighted. We really felt we had a strong set of students," said teacher Maria Wolbert. "We actually placed in every single event except for one."

BPA is the leading Career Technical Student Organization for students pursuing careers in business management, office administration, information technology and other related fields. The group has more than 51,000 members in over 2,300 chapters in 23 states.

Wolbert is one of three advisers for Oxford's BPA chapter. The other two are Vlad Lebedintsev and Karen Cartmill.

"I'm just really proud of our students," Cartmill said. "They had a lot to prepare and they didn't have a lot of time (between other school activities and classes) . . . They worked long into the night, so I could tell that they were going to make it."

"I think the kids did an excellent job in all of the events, whether they came home with an award or not," Lebedintsev said.

Twenty-three of the club's 25 members participated in the regional competition, which involved more than 600 eligible students.

By doing so, Oxford's BPA members got the opportunity to have their work evaluated by professionals, which gave them an idea of the business world's expectations and the type of quality that's required to succeed.

"It really pushes them as leaders," Wolbert said. "It pushes them as individuals to improve their skills."

The competition also gave students a chance to rub elbows with future co-workers and potential employers.

"It's teaching them how to interact with "I their peers in a professional manner, but also with other adults in the field," Wolbert said. "It's helping them to network. I definitely feel it's giving them a leg up."

The state BPA competition will be held March 24-27 in Grand Rapids. All three advisers feel good about Oxford's chances of earning qualifying spots for the national competition in Washington D.C. this May.

"Some of the students most definitely have the skill sets to advance to nationals," Wolbert said.

Wolbert credited much of the club's mounting success to its chapter president Julian Jackson.

"We needed somebody who could help to market and promote BPA to the student body," she said. "We decided she would be a perfect person because of her passion and her drive to assist us as a student leader."

"It really makes a difference when the students are driving the organization as opposed to the advisers," Wolbert added.

Competitions aside, BPA's greatest value is how it's preparing today's students to succeed in tomorrow's marketplace.

"Whether they go on to a career in business or something completely different, either way it's going to help them with leadership skills, with presentation skills," Lebedintsev said. "Interviewing is something you need in any career."

"It not only teaches them professionalism, it helps to introduce them to a lot of different aspects of business," Cartmill said. "It gives them a chance to network with a lot of different individuals. It helps them find their niche."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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