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The many BPA students who will be moving on to state competitions in March. (Photo submitted by Justin Stohs).

It’s the time of year where many winter school activities are beginning their state competitions, and the Business Professionals of America (BPA) are no different. Watertown-Mayer’s own BPA team has 16 students preparing to head to state after competing in the regionals. The students will be competing in a few different categories, each providing them with real-world knowledge of how businesses work and operate.

“It’s an activity that challenges students in a different way,” said Justin Stohs, coach of the BPA. “It puts students in authentic situations that they will see in the future.”

The BPA is a student activity that focuses on, well, business. Specifically, the many different aspects of working for a business or even owning one. They get the chance to choose how exactly they do this, though. For example, one competition category is parliamentary procedures. Students get together in a group and run a mock meeting. There are a few different things the students must accomplish to receive full points, such as everyone speaking and making decisions regarding what’s being discussed.

There are more specific categories as well. A few students are competing in interview skills, and get to pick a career that they are interested in. They do research, put together a resume, and get interviewed by a couple professionals whose job it is to interview candidates.

Others serve as HR employees and are handed cases that HR representatives usually have to deal with. They have to determine the best course of action for the case, and are awarded points based on their decisions and how well the problem would have been handled. And there are even more than that.

What this gives the students is the chance to see what goes into a business. Sometimes they work in groups, and others they are working independently to put together a presentation. No matter what they’re doing, they’re tackling real-world problems, and it gives them experience with some of these situations for the future.

“A few of the students really get put out of their comfort zone,” said Stohs. “But it helps them feel more comfortable in the future if they do work in a business.”

The students will be going to state March 4 and 5 this year at the Hyatt Hotel in Minneapolis. Until then, they will continue to research and perfect their presentations, interviews, and more for the competition. Depending on how they do, they may move onto the national competition, which takes place in Washington DC in May this year.

For students interested in joining the BPA, they take high schoolers, grades 9 to 12, and the group meets weekly throughout the competition season. Going to competitions means playing the part, including dressing for work or interview in business attire. There’s a lot of flexibility in what to do, so there’s a good chance that anything you’re interested in would be applicable.

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