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Pitman students prepare for National Future Business Leaders Conference
fbla state
The Pitman High Future Business Leaders of America Club celebrates their victories after the State competition. - photo by Photo Contributed

Across the state of California there are more than 7,000 student participants in the Future Business Leaders of America club, 297 of which are registered to compete at the national level this summer in Nashville, Tenn. Six Pitman High School students are among the 297 teenagers flying from California to compete side by side against teenagers from across the country, vying for a top spot in a multitude of business-related examinations and performances.

Designed to prepare students for the professional world, the section, state and national FBLA conferences allow students to compete against each other in a variety of tasks by using the skills they have honed. From public speaking to written tests on topics such as personal accounting, FBLA provides students exposure to real-world information and skills while also allowing them to practice useful tools in a competitive environment.

Last February, 58 members of the Pitman High FBLA team traveled to Lindsay to compete at sections, 39 of which continued on to compete at the state level in Ontario this month. The top three finishers in each event qualify to compete at the national level and while PHS Business Teacher Shawne Arnold has served as an FBLA advisor for the past 25 years, she has only had national competitors on four occasions. This year, however, six students will be making their way to Nashville next month to compete in the public speaking, public service announcement, agribusiness and business communication categories.  Arnold is not only proud of the effort the students have put in but surprised at their tenacity.

“I think there is a whole change in the atmosphere at Pitman this year about the FBLA competition. The kids have had nationals on their mind since the beginning of this year,” said Arnold, who mentioned that having a national champ last year could contribute to the students’ motivation. “There is a different environment, there is more motivation, but that is good.”

Having traveled to the national competition before, Arnold noted that the high stakes event allows students a level of exposure and competition they are hard pressed to find even at the state level.

“It is an incredible fight. To see all these kids from around the nation so hyped up, I mean they are pacing the hallways of hotels saying their words and preparing. This level of competition you can really taste in the air. It’s phenomenal,” said Arnold.

To prepare for the national conference, Pitman students have been meeting once a week to further prepare their materials, learn more nuanced information and recite their speeches for third-party listeners. The work that students present in the public speaking and public service announcement competitions, among others, requires students to utilize not only innovative techniques but generate original material. As they continue to hone their craft before the conference next month, Arnold hopes that the PHS competitors keep one thing on the forefront of their mind: setting goals.

“I hope they walk away with a huge sense of accomplishment. Just to get to nationals is a huge accomplishment and if they continue to set smaller goals, they will leave not only feeling proud but prepared for another challenge,” said Arnold.

The PHS FBLA student competitors include: sophomore Elizabeth Nickerson in Introduction to Business Communication, senior Robert Ketscher in Agribusiness, junior Alex Aliaga in Public Speaking, juniors Cynthia Torres, April Zitkovich  and Jose Real as part of the Public Service Announcement team. The students are currently aiming to raise funds for their trip to Nashville by selling tickets for yoga classes and possibly fireworks later this month. Those interested in contributing to the students’ cause can e-mail Shawne Arnold at