By Richard Zhang
Fourty-three Upper Dublin students crowded into a standard-issue school bus outside the high school on a Sunday. Their destination: Hershey Park and Hershey Lodge for the 2015 State Leadership Conference of the Pennsylvania Future Business Leaders of America (FLBA). The conference is a culmination of the largest student governed organization in the nation’s yearly activities, featuring competitive events on business topics, workshops led by business professionals, and officer elections for the state cabinet. It’s a place where dedicated student club members from local schools can show their mettle and passion for business.The annual trip to the State Leadership Conference (SLC) first begins with a tradition of going to Hershey Park, which is always a student favorite. This year the weather was beautiful as students had a blast on various rides, from the teacups to some of Hershey’s signature rollercoasters. Sky Rush was student Max Spiegel’s favorite, a rollercoaster that first launches its riders into the air with one big drop and follows it up with a series of winding twists and turns that are bound to give thrills. Students also enjoyed going on chocolate themed tours at Hershey World, and of course, purchasing and eating Hershey’s chocolate. Smart business investment!
The competitive events truly make up the heart of the SLC. Students compete in hopes of earning the rare opportunity of making it to the National Leadership Conference, held this year in Chicago. This means facing off against about 100 competitors from schools around the state. The competitive events range from on stage performances to objective multiple choice tests about business topics to project presentations. Student Shizhuo (Kevin) Duan performed one such multiple choice test-based event. “My event was pretty much just a test about concepts in information technology.” Longan Loi performed a performance event along with his partner Leesi Israel. “Ebusiness was kinda nerve wracking to present but it ended up being alright, we just created our own store and presented the idea and the website.” Student Angelina Han commented on the difficulty of her test. “My competitive event, was Word Processing. The gist of it was: for the test, all about formatting and how to use Microsoft Word 2010. I had a project portion that required me to type and format a packet of documents as was required. It was extremely difficult, and I just wish I was a faster typer.”
Student Martin Schneider performed extremely well at the SLC, being one of the three students to take first place in their event. “This year I competed in Mobile App design with my sister Lexi and Michael Deng. Largely shaped by the project parameters that FBLA set, we created an Android application that acts as a central hub to get information about the UD School district. Upcoming events, newspaper articles, bulletins, wikispaces – everything’s in one place. The app that we created was pre-judged, and at states there was an additional presentation and Q & A session. Student Lexi Schneider was not at all expecting her 1st place prize in mobile applications. She’s looking forward to attending the National Leadership Conference again in June! “When I was standing on stage at the awards ceremony, I did not expect to win 1st, but soon Dustin and Aaron (my stand ins for Marty and Michael) and I were the only ones left on stage. I was super excited!”
In conjunction to the competitive events, the other half of SLC is the workshops. These are presentations are given by members of the local business community and offer rare glimpses into the workings of business world, whether it’s resume building or interview strategies. While these presentations usually feature professionals that have been working for years in the industry, two Upper Dublin students, Veronica Lu and Shoshanna Israel were given the rare opportunity to give one such presentation titled “Interning in High School”, focusing on how to acquire and maintain internships as a high schooler. For Veronica, it was a challenging yet rewarding experience. “There seemed to be endless hours of mapping out, researching, preparing, and revising that went into our project…. However, we definitely pulled through in the end: hundreds of students showed up to our workshop! Many asked questions throughout, wrote extensive notes on the information we had to share, and left the conference inspired to find real work experience for themselves.” For her, it was all worth it in the end. “It really feels rewarding knowing that we were able to push these future business leaders out of their comfort zone in a way that will help them get a jump start on their careers!”
SLC, outside of all of the business events and decorum, also offers a rare and unique bonding opportunity for student members. Some of the members loved just being able to kick back in the rooms at Hershey Lodge. Student Jordan Heffler describes his favorite experience. “I remember one night a lot of us were hungry so we decided to order some pizzas from room service. When the food came everybody [pitched] in and we had a ton of kids all in one room. Between the pizza, video games, and the fact that everybody was so sociable, it made my stay even more memorable.” Student Sennett Yang loved being able to bond with his local officers even more. “Because it wasn’t set in a school setting, it was much more open, personal, intimate… We did homework together, [we] bonded at the ending ceremony as we cheered for our school members in unison [we] actively tried to go to each other’s events to cheer the respective competitor.” For student James Entrot, he was simply awestruck in meeting the state officers in such a relaxed setting. “Seeing [the state officers] outside their “work” was interesting to realize and experience the fact that everyone is a person and has qualities that make them different apart from their leadership skills just like everyone else.”
As students returned on Tuesday afternoon they realized that their great time at SLC was over, but they were left with new memories and great chocolate. SLC is truly a rare experience that student Sam Rosen sums up the best. “It was really fun, it was the perfect balance of educational experiences and relaxation. I got to know a lot of people a lot better because of the trip overall it was a great experience and I am happy I was able to attend.”