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Pitman students place fifth in national FBLA conference
Seniors Dustin Halsey, Colin Van Winkle and Bryse Rochester placed fifth in the Computer Game and Simulation Programming event at the Future Business Leaders of American National Leadership Conference earlier this month. - photo by Photo Contributed

It goes without saying that three students in Pitman High School’s Future Business Leaders of America program have had a successful year.

The triumphant path for seniors Bryse Rochester, Dustin Halsey and Colin Van Winkle began in February when the students attended the Central Leadership Conference, where their hard work in the Computer Game and Simulation Programming event qualified them to move on to the State Leadership Conference in April.

At the state level, the three students not only made the cut to move on to the National Leadership Conference this month, but they worked together to secure first place in their event in which they submitted a “wave-based tower defense game” as their finished product.

“It definitely was a confidence booster,” said Van Winkle in April. “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.”

As a result from the State Leadership Conference, a total of five students from PHS traveled to Chicago from June 29 to July 2 along with upwards of 8,500 of the nation’s FBLA students for the FBLA National Leadership Conference.

Rochester, Halsey and Van Winkle received national recognition at the FBLA Awards of Excellence Program on July 2 for their participation in the Computer Game and Simulation Programming event and brought home fifth place in the nation.

“In 23 years of advising the Pitman High School FBLA program, this is only the second time we have placed in the top ten at the national level,” said PHS FBLA advisor Shawne Arnold.

The award was part of a comprehensive national competitive events program sponsored by FBLA-Phi Beta Lambda that recognizes and rewards excellence in a broad range of business and career-related areas. For many students, the competitive events are the capstone activity of their academic careers.

“We are just so proud, it’s a big accomplishment,” said secondary PHS FBLA advisor Paola Inman. “These kids have worked so hard to compete against other really talented kids with extremely creative games.”

Although a significant amount of the three students’ achievement at the national level was due to their own hard work, Inman reported that the students would not have prospered as much if it wasn’t for Arnold’s dedication to the high school program.

 “This woman spent so much time working with the kids and getting them ready,” said Inman. “This was really dear to her heart and she really is the heart and soul of FBLA.

In addition to the competitions, students immersed themselves in educational workshops, visited an information-packed exhibit hall and attended motivational keynotes on a broad range of business topics.

One major benefit that Inman believes that students obtained from the national conference was the ability to network with other students.

“It is remarkable how these kids communicated with each other,” said Inman. “These kids are really informed and they learn a lot with FBLA. This event brings students together that you wouldn’t necessarily see being brought together.”