‘Discover your purpose’

NHS, WHS students participate in national BPA conference

Business Professionals of American National Leadership Conference participants from Westwood High School are, from left, Abigail Johnson, Ian Kauppila, Hannah Niemi, Allyana Grochowski, Kambrie Duquette, Megan Marta, Isabelle Grochowski, Kaya Etelamaki, Brianna Keasler Maki and Byron Tossava. (Photo courtesy of Westwood High School)

MARQUETTE — For some local high schoolers, a trip to California was a lot more than sightseeing.

On April 25, 18 Negaunee High School students traveled to Anaheim, California, to compete in the Business Professionals of America national competition.

BPA offered more than 60 various competitive events in finance, administrative support, information technology, management, marketing and human resources.

To qualify to compete in nationals, students must have placed both in the regional competition and the state level before advancing. Additionally, at the National Leadership Conference, students can test and obtain certifications in certain fields, meet with colleges, interact with peers from throughout the U.S. and experiences different cultures.

Jake Skewis is a BPA adviser for the Negaunee students.

He said students compete in the academic organization in different events, such as business, finance, accounting and Microsoft Office applications, speaking roles, presentations, health care, computer animation and information technology — a wide variety.

“It’s not necessarily just for your typical ‘I’m going into business. I want to be an accountant, or marketer,’ or something like that,” Skewis said.

The BPA program at Negaunee High School was restarted three years ago following a hiatus of about 20 years, he said.

Skewis called the 2022 national conference in Dallas “a learning experience.”

“This was our first year back where we kind of had an idea of what to expect,” Skewis said.

This year, 18 NHS students traveled to Anaheim, with three students standing on the national stage, including Emma Arbelius who took third place in fundamental word processing.

Emma Hubbard finished seventh in database apps, while Morgan Carilli finished ninth in advancing accounting.

“It’s great because we have these kids that are really good at a sport, or good at an instrument, or something like that,” Skewis said.

That gives them some fame, but he also cautioned the students on what to expect in life.

“We’re all going to go pro in something,” Skewis said. “They can look at these different career paths.”

Their academic strengths have allowed the students, through BPA, to travel in the state of Michigan as well as “someplace warm,” he said.

“It’s really cool to see them get that recognition and see that, ‘Hey, I’m good at this, and I can make a career out of this,'” Skewis said.

Even if they don’t enter a business field, he said the students learn teamwork by competing in events, plus they learn how to make presentations, network and speak in front of judges.

“It’s nerve-wracking for an adult, so for a student to get that opportunity to do that is really, really invaluable to them,” Skewis said.

Hubbard said BPA has allowed her to become certified in Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Access — skills that likely will help her later on in her career.

“When I’m older I want to run my own business,” Hubbard said.

Negaunee Public Schools credited these sponsors who supported the BPA program: Coleman Farm Bureau Agency, Upper Peninsula Imaging, Fox Motors, Cleveland-Cliffs, Road Machinery and Supplies, Honor Credit Union, Yeadon Energy Systems, Upper Peninsula Medical Management and Goodwill Industries.

Westwood also competes

Ten Westwood High School students also attended the conference, which was titled, “Discover Your Purpose.”

Westwood has plenty of experience in BPA competition.

“They’ve been doing it forever,” Skewis said. “The actually helped us a ton when we were getting our chapter re-established.”

National award winners were: Isabelle Grochowski, fourth place, Legal Office Procedures; Megan Marta, sixth place, Legal Office Procedures; Hannah Niemi, sixth place, Intermediate Word Processing; and Brianna Keasler Maki, eighth place, Intermediate Word Processing.

In addition to the conference activities and competitions, students visited Huntington Beach, Disneyland and Universal Studios, and took a tour of Los Angeles.

“Attending BPA Nationals was an amazing experience,” Allyana Grochowski said in an email. “Getting to compete among the best in the country, as well as making new friends was definitely my favorite part. As a chapter, we have made memories that will last a lifetime!. We put a lot of hard work and dedication into BPA this year, and I cannot wait to hear of all the successes Westwood BPA will have in the future.”

Kambrie Duquette said in an email, “BPA gave me an opportunity to use my professional skills and explore the business world. Not only did I experience what it’s like to be a businesswoman, but I also met new people from around the country that shared the same interests. BPA became a big part of my senior year and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities it gave me.”

Westwood sponsors were Cleveland-Cliffs; First Bank; the Ishpeming Kiwanis Club; the Upper Peninsula Health Plan, Ishpeming Elks Lodge 447, Wealth Strategy Group LLC,, Dave’s Collision Center, Green Creek Taxidermy, McDonald’s, Range Bank; U.P. Home Health & Hospice; United Steelworkers Local Union No. 4950; Argonics; Concepts Consulting Inc.; Range Corporation; Cattron’s Lumber & Building Supplies; the Iron Range Agency; Moyle Trucking & Excavating; Soderberg; TruNorth Federal Credit Union; Turino Chiropractic Center; G. Michael Nidiffer, M.D.; and Casselman & Henderson, PC.


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