Middle school students compete in State BPA Leadership Conference
Hastings Middle School students competed in their first Business Professionals of America (BPA) competition at the fifth annual Middle Level State Leadership Conference on Friday, Feb. 21 at Davenport University.
Robert Carl, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Educator in Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Digital Multimedia Design and Finance at Hastings High School, explained that the BPA is an organization that provides leadership and business opportunities for middle school through collegiate students who are preparing for careers in the business world.
“If taken seriously, it helps quite a bit.” Carl said. “Last year, a couple high school students went to national level.”
Carl said he contemplated starting the middle level program when the opportunity opened five years ago, but he had trouble convincing the other business teacher. This year, he was left in charge of the BPA.
“I figured this was the opportunity I was waiting for, so we started this year. This is a great opportunity for middle school students, and a great feeder program into the high school division.” Carl said. “My wife is the advisor for Hastings Middle School (Future Farmers of America chapter), and I have seen what it has done for those students, and for the high school program.”
Along with the help from Carl, eighth-graders Kaylie Carl and Jorden Lyke; along with sixth-graders Kyla Brown and Tyce Richardson, competed in The Workplace Skills Assessment Program (WSAP).
The WSAP is an opportunity provided by the BPA for students to demonstrate workplace skills. There are 26 competitive events available for middle level students to participate in through the program.
Carl worked with the students to help prepare them for the competition. This preparation process started around Thanksgiving, about two months before the State Leadership Conference.
“We had weekly hourlong meetings at the high school, so that students could get assistance and have access to materials needed for their competitions,” he said.
Carl explained that the preparation process varied for each student, depending on the event he or she was participating in. Some of the students engaged in studying for multiple-choice tests, while others practiced presentation and development of a website design.
The open events competed in by the four students were Business Communication Skills Concepts, Business Fundamentals Concepts, Business Math Concepts, and Computer Literacy Concepts. Tyce and Kyla also competed in a team event. However, Carl said the website design team’s score was reduced due to members of the team being absent from the convention.
“Unfortunately, none of the Hastings Middle Level students placed high enough to move on to nationals in Washington, D.C. this May; but this was our first year, and we started out small,” Carl said. “Hastings does not have business classes at the middle level, nor business teachers at building, so we were not set up for the best results. I think the students did OK for the first year, and adjustments will definitely be made for next year to promote student success. I believe all students benefited from the club and activities, and I am excited to expand next year.”
There are no regional conferences for the middle level BPA, due to only eight schools in Michigan participating in the middle level competitions. All students go directly to the State Leadership Conference. However, Carl expects that if more schools participate in the future, the middle level BPA competitions will have regional conferences preceding the state conferences.
“The program has been successful, and the middle level is growing at a much faster rate than the secondary division.” He said. “Regionals do have benefits, as the competition would not be as strong as state level, and the added events would give the students more time to practice and perfect their craft before reaching state level.”