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Pitman Future Business Leaders small but mighty
Four students head to national competition
Six members of Pitman High Schools Future Business Leaders of America program placed at the 2015 State Leadership Conference, including Colin Van Winkle, Bryce Rochester and Dustin Halsey (back), who secured first place in Computer Game and Simulation Programming, Matthew Campa, Michelle Doo and Lauren Suratos. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

With other Future Business Leaders of America programs throughout the state boasting upwards of 300 members, some might be quick to dismiss Pitman High School’s smaller FBLA program with just over 100 members as insignificant in comparison.

However, that is certainly not the case.

 Of the 101 members in the high school’s FBLA, 60 students attended the Central Section Leadership Conference in February, where 43 students qualified to move on to the State Leadership Conference earlier this month.

From those 43 students, four students ultimately prevailed and will move on to the National Leadership Conference in June.

Not only did they make the cut to move on to Nationals, seniors Bryce Rochester, Dustin Halsey and Colin Van Winkle worked together to secure first place throughout the state in the Computer Game and Simulation Programming event.

For this event, the team had to create a game prior to the conference. According to Rochester, their finished product can be defined as a “wave-based tower defense game.”

However, for those who do not consider themselves as experienced gamers, Rochester explained it in simpler terms as a game where the player must place towers to effectively shoot at enemies before they reach the end of the path.

“This event took a lot of preparation,” said Halsey. “It took us about a month and a half to create the game.”

Upon completion of their game, the team submitted the final result to preliminary judging, which accounted for two-thirds of their score for the competition.  During the conference itself, their game was chosen as one of the top five to be presented in front of judges for the remaining one-third of their score.

Although the team joked about making it as far as they did, they couldn’t mask the pride they felt at securing first place against their competitors.

“It definitely was a confidence booster,” said Van Winkle. “We were thinking that the top schools were geniuses and that we were way under them, but the fact that we got first place shows that we can match them.”

“It means a lot to me because I actually want to be a programmer as a career, so winning something like this is a big deal for me because it is a starting point of having something to show,” added Halsey.

According to the team, they have until Friday to polish up their game and implement any needed improvements for the upcoming National Leadership Conference.

“We definitely want to make it clearer and easier to use,” said Rochester.

The three boys will be joined at nationals by sophomore Michelle Doo, who originally finished fifth in the Accounting I event. However, upon learning that the third place finisher dropped, Doo was bumped up to be one of the four finalists to move on National Leadership Conference.

“It means a lot to me to move on to nationals,” said Doo. “It’s nice to know that all of my studying has paid off.”

For the Accounting I event, Doo had one hour to complete an online test with 100 multiple-choice questions. To prepare for the event, she dedicated her time to studying with friends and PHS Business teacher Harvey Marable—two practices she hopes to continue doing in order to prepare for nationals in June.

Although they did not make it to nationals, two other PHS students received awards at state, including sophomore Lauren Suratos, who earned eighth place in Introduction to Business.

“I was actually really surprised that I placed,” said Suratos. “I’m really proud of myself.”

In preparation for the conference, Suratos overcame challenges associated with learning all of the business terms and jargon to successfully maneuver through the 100 multiple-choice questions on the event’s online exam.

In his second year competing at state, senior Matthew Campa also managed to secure 10th place through his completion of an online test in the Insurance and Risk Management event during the conference.

To prepare for this year’s competition, Campa took advantage of a number of online resources made available through the FBLA website and looked up a lot of terminology on the website. For the exam itself, he reported that he was placed in hypothetical situations as an insurance salesman.

“It felt really good to get some kind of award,” said Campa. “I could’ve done better, but I’m still proud.”