Five OAHS FBLA members qualify for National Conference

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Pictured from left are Oxford Area Board of School Directors President Joseph Tighe, Oxford Area High School Principal James Canaday, 2020 Pennsylvania FBLA State Leadership Conference qualifiers Christopher Goodrich, Sydney Herrera, Samantha Dunlap, Cade Pearson, Dan Nowland, Abby Oliver, Bailee Mallon, Justin Neskie and Gabbie Burton, and Superintendent David Woods. Christopher, Sydney, Samantha, Cade and Daniel qualified to participate in the FBLA National Leadership Experience, which will be held virtually from June 27 to July 3.

Five members of the Oxford Area High School chapter of Future Business Leaders of America will attend the FBLA National Leadership Conference and Competition to be held virtually from June 27 to July 3. The students qualified for the conference after finishing among the top 10 scorers in their business-related events at the Pennsylvania FBLA Leadership Conference and Competition, which was held virtually in June.

Qualifying for the national competition are rising senior Christopher Goodrich, son of Sharon and Mark Goodrich; rising junior Abby Oliver, daughter of Emily and Steve Oliver; and the team of rising juniors Samantha Dunlap, daughter of Kelley and Jeffery Dunlap; Daniel Nowland, son of Jen and Jeff Nowland; and Cade Pearson, son of Lisa and Ryan Pearson.

This is the third year in a row that Christopher qualified for the National Leadership Conference, having attended the 2018 conference in Baltimore and last summer’s conference in San Antonio, Texas. Last year Christopher competed in Introduction to Business Procedures, having placed first in the event at the 2019 State Leadership Conference. This year he is competing in the Political Science event.  

Christopher was joined in San Antonio by Daniel and Cade, who partnered in the Introduction to Business Presentation event after placing fourth at the state level.

Abby will compete in the Introduction to Business Communication event at the national conference. This year’s state conference was her second, having competed in the Introduction to FLBA event in 2019.

“I enjoy and do well in English class, and Introduction to Business Communication tests knowledge on English concepts,” said Abby. “Although I am not interested in pursuing a degree in communications, I have thought about writing a book sometime after I leave college.”

Abby admitted that attending and competing at the conference via the internet was a unique experience, despite having her classes taught online since schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “It felt a little strange to attend this year’s virtual conference,” she said. “But I was still nervous when the names of the winners of each event were being flashed across the screen.”

The national FBLA conference, which this year is called the National Leadership Experience, is by tradition more of a celebration of the attendees’ success than an intense competition, but the students still must prepare for their events. “My event in the National Leadership Experience is not different from the State Leadership Conference, and I will prepare in a similar way,” said Abby. “I am using the resources and practice tests on the FBLA website to prepare, as well as Quizlets about similar topics.”

Samantha, Cade and Daniel teamed up to compete in the Social Media Campaign event at the state level. “Knowing how to manage a social media platform is very important in the business field,” said Samantha.

Because her first State Leadership Conference was held virtually, Samantha said she had little sense of the conference being any different from previous ones that are held each spring at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. “I still was able to work with my group, which helped make it feel like I was competing at an actual conference, and I also enjoyed the online workshops,” she said. “For the national conference, my group will continue to work together to make our project the best it can be.”

Cade said the Social Media Campaign event seemed to fit his personality. “I feel like I am a lot better at performing and talking to others, so I chose an event where the team makes a presentation, which I like better than taking a test,” he said. “I really enjoyed working on our presentation with Sam and Dan.”

Cade admitted his year’s state conference was an entirely different experience from last year. “It was very different, and it didn’t seem right not seeing everyone and getting a personal experience,” he said. “I never felt like I was actually attending a conference.”

Daniel agreed with Cade that making a presentation at the state conference was more satisfying than being in an event that required a written test. And while competing virtually was not an ideal situation, he felt the state FLBA organization worked to make the conference as accessible as possible.

“There were resources the participants could use to make the transition from in-person to virtual go smoothly,” said Daniel.

FBLA chapter advisor Kimberly Webber noted that in addition to the top 10 finishes by the five members qualifying for the national conference, Sydney Herrera placed in the top 12 for Job Interview. “The difference between placing 10th and 12th is very small,” she noted.

Ms. Webber said the students’ preparation for and participation in this year’s virtual competition was very challenging on several levels. She noted that to prepare for her event, Sydney used Zoom to meet and hold face-to-face mock interviews with Oxford Area School District administrators and local businesspeople.

“I am sure interviewing virtually had its challenges; however, Sydney did an outstanding job and I am very proud of her accomplishment,” she said.

For their Social Media Campaign event, Ms. Webber said that Cade, Daniel and Samantha had to be creative in order to produce a presentation while maintaining social distance guidelines “They found a way to do that and their ingenuity paid off in a top 10 finish,” she said. 

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the virtual State Leadership Conference was that Christopher and Abby were required to sign a "Code of Honor" in order to compete in their events from home.

Ms. Webber has been the faculty advisor to the FBLA for over 15 years and has attended every State Leadership Conference during that time. But none required as quick a change in plans and as complicated logistics as this year’s event. 

“It was very frustrating and stressful for me at times, not to be able to directly work with the students,” said Ms. Webber. “I am very thankful for the parents, and for the students, who really went above and beyond to make the best of the situation. Regardless of how the five students place at the National Conference, I am extremely proud of all of them.”