ANAHEIM, Calif. — Five Granite Falls High School students qualified to compete in the National Leadership Conference of the Future Business Leaders of America and three came home with trophies.
Aakash and Pooja Sethi placed sixth overall for the Management Information Systems team event. Pooja Sethi, a high school senior, is now a two-time national winner after placing fourth in accounting in 2011. Junior Aakash Sethi is a three-time national participant and this is the first time he placed nationally. Freshman Jeremy Miller placed ninth overall for the Introduction to Technology Concepts event. Rounding out the team were junior Alaina Vanderhoff, competing in her first year at nationals, senior Katelyn Campbell, making her second appearance at nationals, and adviser Sherry Lund.
She had high praise for Miller.
“He lives, eats and breathes technology,” Lund said of Miller. “He really steps up to the challenge and there are so many events for him to compete in. I see a four-year participant.”
After Miller, Vanderhoff, Campbell and the Sethis finished strongly at the state competition in Spokane, the team competed in events in Anaheim the last week in June. More than 8,500 student competitors, educators and business leaders from all over the country attended the event.
The National Leadership Conference allows individuals and state teams to compete in any of more than 50 different events that represent a wide range of activities that contain the business and leadership development focus of FBLA. FBLA is the largest business career student organization in the world.
“Watching a sea of 9,000-plus people walk around was amazing,” said Miller. “That really gave me the sense that I was going to be a part of something really awesome.”
“I saw the ability-level of our kids and knew they were bright,” Lund said. “Then when we started competing at FBLA events (state and national level) I knew this group was a diamond in the rough. They are just as qualified as 4A schools. School size doesn’t matter, our kids have the potential and can compete.”
Every student attended workshops, exhibits and met an array of competent and aggressive business leaders from all over the country. One of the most important tools these students develop from a national conference is their growing ability to elicit initiative and maintain relationships, Lund said. “Networking” was one of the main buzzwords and modules from this year’s conference.
Some students encountered new challenges. Pooja and Aakash Sethi said the rules at nationals were different from those at state. They were given 20 minutes to prepare a solution for the judges with 7 minutes to present it. In past competitions, a typical format would allow them to answer questions at the end of the 7 minutes. This time, judges were told to ask questions during the presentation.
“We did not expect to be interrupted or questioned during our speech,” said Aakash Sethi. “The whole competition was nerve-racking, despite taking detailed notes two weeks before the competition and reading books up until the last minute.”
“My past three years in FBLA will definitely be part of my best memories of high school,” said Pooja Sethi. “I’ve built confidence, made new friends and explored the country from east to West Coast.”