Willmar BPA team places 3rd in nation at tourney

WILLMAR -- When a man in the Reno, Nev., airport tried to get them to sign up for credit cards, the Business Professionals of America students from Willmar told him he should save his money instead.

WILLMAR -- When a man in the Reno, Nev., airport tried to get them to sign up for credit cards, the Business Professionals of America students from Willmar told him he should save his money instead.

The fellow didn't seem to appreciate the advice, said Jordan Baker, a member of the Presentation Management Team.

Judges at the BPA national convention were a little more impressed.

The Presentation Management Team from Willmar Senior High placed third in the nation for their marketing plan to convince young people to save more. They competed against about 50 other teams in their category. The team was led by adviser Jennifer Maras.

The team of Baker, Ali Unger, Anders Nordstrom and Jeremy Werner delivered their 10-minute presentation to two groups of judges earlier this month at the national competition in Reno. They had placed first in the state competition in March.


The team developed a PowerPoint presentation, a television commercial and a radio commercial. The radio ad included a jingle co-written by Nordstrom and Werner.

The 18-year-old seniors learned a few things about their topic and themselves as they researched and prepared their presentation.

"We've just learned of our opportunities to save," Nordstrom said.

Baker said they talked about the advantages and disadvantages of saving for young people. The disadvantage is the effect it can have on college financial aid.

Their presentation recommended telling the target group -- people 18 to 25 -- to invest in Roth IRAs, a type of retirement savings plan, and to remember that they should "try to get only what you need, not what you want," in the words of Nordstrom.

The presentation gave them practical experience for whatever careers they choose in the future, the team members said.

"I learned communication," Unger said. "We learned to communicate with each other real well." It probably helped that they had been good friends before, she added.

The team members could communicate with a look during their presentations, and they were able to think on their feet.


Unger said they would try to strike up conversations with people on other teams in Reno, but some of them were too busy preparing for their presentations. Some had scripts or stacks of note cards with them.

"I think that's one of the reasons we did so well; we weren't so scripted," Nordstrom said.

"We knew the information, but we didn't have it scripted," Baker added. As a result, their presentation was "not always the same, but it was always a little bit better."

"We could all improvise. ... We used our strengths to enhance our presentation," added Werner.

"In reality, that's what the business world is like," said Maras, a senior high business teacher.

The team also managed to inject a little humor into their presentation. One of their favorite moments was their ability to make a particularly straight-faced judge laugh out loud.

At competitions, "the Willmar kids really stand out," Maras said. "They're able to mix professionalism and fun. ... I feel just so lucky to work with some of Willmar's best."'

Unger said the 13 team members who attended the national conference in Reno were grateful for the donations they received to help pay for their trip. The Willmar Public Schools Foundation was a major contributor. The Senior High Student Council also donated money for the trip.


The team members said they were grateful to Maras for the work she has done with BPA. It started five years ago as a pilot project with five students. This year, 60 students participated.

BPA has something for just about everybody, the students said. It has competitions for people interested in video production, Web site development and accounting. Some competitions involve making team presentations, but others are individual competitions that do not include live presentations.

Other students attending the national conference: Maddie Anderson, Nathan Andresen, Megan Brown, Desirae Damm, Katie Jacobson, Kyle Schmidt, Erum Siddiqui, Gayle Swanson and Nate Tusa.

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