Nine students from Detroit Lakes High School’s Business Professionals of America chapter will be competing at the organization’s National Leadership Conference this spring, following strong performances at the state conference last month and regionals before that.

Hannah Hagen, Mercedes Jesness, Lukas Justesen, Kaitlin McConkey, Shianne Motschenbacher, Kaitlyn Peterson, Kaleigh Reller, Jocelyn Sletmoen and Jack Syltie all placed within the top 7 in their various state contests, which represented a wide range of business topics -- from payroll accounting to medical coding, human resources management to global marketing.

The national conference is BPA’s pinnacle competition -- students who compete there are up against thousands of the nation’s highest-performing BPA members. The 2021 national conference will be held virtually over two weeks in late April and early May.

The Minnesota State Leadership Conference was held over the first two weeks of March; 26 students from Detroit Lakes participated in that. Regional competitions were held earlier in the school year, over the fall and winter.

Braeden Hogie, a business education teacher at Detroit Lakes High School and the advisor of the school’s BPA chapter, said BPA’s mission is, “to develop and empower student leaders to discover their passion and change the world by creating unmatched opportunities in learning, professional growth and service.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

BPA is a co-curricular activity designed to enhance student participation in professional, civic, service and social endeavors, working toward their own personal goals related to self-improvement, leadership development, professionalism, community service, career development and more.

As senior Lukas Justesen, who has been part of the local BPA chapter for the past two years, said, “The skills I have learned from BPA will help me no matter what I do and where I go. When I am applying for my first job or have a job interview, I will have a huge advantage over the other applicants because of my experience.”

Justesen will be competing in the national conference in the category of Advanced Interview Skills. A panel of judges will rate him on his performance during what is essentially a mock job interview.

“Doing these interviews has helped me so much with my one-on-one people skills,” he said. “I don't ever feel nervous or scared anymore talking to people I don't know.”

The following Detroit Lakes High School Business Professionals of America chapter members competed at the virtual BPA State Leadership Conference in March. They are, front row, left to right: Kaleigh Reller, Kaitlyn Peterson, Gretta Schulberg, Kaitlin McConkey, Shianne Motschenbacher, Mercedes Jesness, Mia Hanson, Rylie Wendt and Ava Morrison. Back row: Elias Gloege, Nathan Cihak, Cade Jackson, Jack Syltie, Zack Oistad, Robert Blanchard, Cade Riewer, Jake Bishop, Jourdan Brandt and Hannah Hagen. Not pictured are Lukas Justesen, Jocelyn Sletmoen, Jonah Hauser, Maria Sauer, Lucas Schwan, Thomas Fritz and Advisor Braeden Hogie. (Submitted Photo)
The following Detroit Lakes High School Business Professionals of America chapter members competed at the virtual BPA State Leadership Conference in March. They are, front row, left to right: Kaleigh Reller, Kaitlyn Peterson, Gretta Schulberg, Kaitlin McConkey, Shianne Motschenbacher, Mercedes Jesness, Mia Hanson, Rylie Wendt and Ava Morrison. Back row: Elias Gloege, Nathan Cihak, Cade Jackson, Jack Syltie, Zack Oistad, Robert Blanchard, Cade Riewer, Jake Bishop, Jourdan Brandt and Hannah Hagen. Not pictured are Lukas Justesen, Jocelyn Sletmoen, Jonah Hauser, Maria Sauer, Lucas Schwan, Thomas Fritz and Advisor Braeden Hogie. (Submitted Photo)

BPA is the nation’s leading career and technical student organization, according to bpa.org. It helps students prepare for careers in fast-paced business fields such as administration, finance, information technology, video production, human resources, computer programming, graphic and web design, entrepreneurship and related careers.

Kids in the program get to learn from and make professional connections with business leaders at their local, regional and state levels. Hogie said Detroit Lakes area businesses have been “very helpful in working with our students.”

“Many local business professionals have volunteered to help students prepare for contests, served as guest speakers for our business classes, and some even help judge different categories at our region competition," he said.

Across the country, there are about 45,000 students involved in BPA; in Detroit Lakes, about 30 students are members this year -- one of the school's larger groups in recent history. The group is made up of kids in grades 9-12 and they’re able to participate throughout their entire high school careers. Hogie said the local chapter was formed more than 30 years ago.

“BPA is a great way for students to make connections with their peers, build a foundation of skills necessary for success in college as well as business fields, and learn from business professionals,” said Hogie.

Senior Kaitlin McConkey, for example, said she discovered her “passion for business” through her involvement in the local BPA chapter. She plans to pursue a business degree in college next year, with the goal of becoming a financial advisor and one day owning her own business.

“Participating in BPA has become a major factor that helped me make these decisions,” she said. “Through BPA, I have had a peek into the business world and what a professional career looks like. … In addition, I have met incredible people and had some of my best high school memories while on trips and during competitions in BPA.”

Mercedes Jesness, another member of the Detroit Lakes BPA team, also wants to become a small business owner one day, and said, “BPA has really helped me gain an insight into everything that goes into it, from small reports to finances. The skills I have learned are timeless, and can really be applied to anything.”

National conference qualifiers

The following members of Detroit Lakes High School’s Business Professionals of America chapter will be competing at the 55th Annual National Leadership Conference, held virtually in late April/early May. They are listed by name, contest, and rank at the state conference.

  • Hannah Hagen, Prepared Speech, 7th

  • Mercedes Jesness, Advanced Word Processing, 5th; and Advanced Office Systems and Procedures, 6th

  • Lukas Justesen, Advanced Interview Skills, 3rd

  • Kaitlin McConkey, Human Resource Management, 2nd

  • Shianne Motschenbacher, Financial Analyst Team, 2nd

  • Kaitlyn Peterson, Payroll Accounting, 5th; and Fundamental Accounting, 6th

  • Kaleigh Reller, Entrepreneurship, 2nd

  • Jocelyn Sletmoen, Diagnostic Coding, 7th

  • Jack Syltie, Financial Analyst Team, 2nd

Also of note are local chapter members Robert Blanchard, who is serving as Region 6 president this year, and Kaleigh Reller, who is Minnesota State vice president. Both Reller and Blanchard will be recognized for their leadership with Ambassador National Torch Awards at the National Leadership Conference.