Nearly 500 students from the Future Business Leaders of America met at Pitman High School on Saturday for the Central Section FBLA Leadership Conference, an annual event that pits young minds against each other during a day filled with competitions ranging from written objective tests to performance events.
At the end of the day, 26 PHS students were successful at the regional qualifier to move on and compete in 37 events at the FBLA State Leadership Conference in April. Students who qualify at the state competition will go on to vie for the title at the FBLA National Leadership Conference in June. The high school also placed second overall in the Doris Lowe Sweepstakes event.
“I am extremely proud of my students,” said PHS FBLA Advisor Shawne Arnold. “Although not everyone qualified to compete at the next level, Pitman students brought home a total of 56 plaques and placed second overall in the Sweepstakes event. Students were very excited at the awards ceremony and seeing them proudly carry their plaques from the ‘stage’ was extremely gratifying to me.
“Events like this build student confidence and develop leadership and networking skills. Students who take time to participate in academic competitions are more motivated to learn in the classroom and develop skills they will need for life after high school,” continued Arnold.
Arnold said that the main goal of Saturday’s conference was twofold: to qualify students for state competitions and to elect next year’s Central Section officers.
“We had online testing events all day and performances events mostly in the morning,” said Arnold. “Most students competed in two events, and depending on the timing of those events, they could have been performing and testing throughout the day.”
Senior Daphne Blas, who serves as the historian for PHS FBLA, competed in “Economics” and “Marketing” during Saturday’s event. Although she did qualify for state in “Economics,” she secured second place in the “Marketing” event alongside her partner Elizabeth Nickerson.
“It means a lot to me that I qualified because there were about 500 kids at section, so competing against all those kids and placing is a huge accomplishment,” said Blas. “The fact that my partner and I now get to go to state is an even bigger accomplishment.”
This will not be the first year that Blas has advanced to the FBLA State Conference as she competed in the “Business Ethics” event as a junior. During that time, Blas and her classmates had to write a paper about the ethicality of sweatshops and whether or not they should be used in the United States.
“To take the state title this year would be incredibly honorable since there are about 6,000 competitors there from all throughout California,” said Blas. “It would be absolutely mind-blowing.”
Lauren Suratos, who is currently a junior, was one of the 26 PHS students to qualify during Saturday’s conference. Suratos was not only able to succeed in one competitive event, but two with her second place earning in “Business Law” and third place award in “Insurance and Risk Management.”
“I was really excited because I really wanted to go to state this year,” said Suratos. “I’m just proud of myself for placing.”
This is not the first year that Suratos has placed in two different events, nor is it the first time she will advance to the FBLA State Conference. Last year, which was also her first year involved in PHS FBLA, Suratos was successful in two other events, “Introduction to Business” and “Business Math,” which landed her at the state competition.
Suratos said that she decided to join FBLA last year to be with her friends, engage in community service and join in on business competitions that she thought were interesting. Even though she had never thought of pursuing business in college prior to joining FBLA, she now intends to minor or double major in business, along with majoring in computer science.
“I think it is important to have organizations like FBLA with its competitions because it opens new doors for students,” said Suratos. “Me? I wasn’t even considering business. But now because of FBLA I am going to pursue it in my future.”