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BPA awards

From left, Mariah Thomas, Delaney Heppner, Kyle Norman and Alex Northey pose with their Business Professionals of America awards in this collage of photos.

Four Capital High School seniors stand out as future business professionals in Montana.

Mariah Thomas, Kyle Norman, DeLaney Heppner and Alex Northey will travel to the national Business Professionals of America conference May 1-5 in Anaheim, California. These students all placed high in Montana's state competition. They were among 18 Capital students who competed with 1,300 others from across the state in the leadership conference. 

The students were awarded:

  • Mariah Thomas - first place, business law and ethics
  • DeLaney Heppner - third place, payroll accounting
  • Alex Northey - fourth place, advanced accounting and fifth place, payroll accounting
  • Kyle Norman - Statesman torch award

Norman has the longest history with BPA for all four years of high school. He also primarily contributes through the service side of BPA rather than the competitive side. 

The torch awards program is based on personal achievement. Members are recognized for their involvement in community service and other BPA adjacent activities on the state, local or national level. Students are honored with a torch award if they go above and beyond with how much time they put in.

Norman volunteered a lot of time to the Montana Special Olympics in addition to speaking at and coordinating community events. 

For the past four years, Norman has been encouraging fellow students to join BPA. When Northey joined two years ago, he also started encouraging others to join. Northey joined BPA while taking Terri Norman's accounting class. He said he thought it sounded interesting and found it fun when he started.

"So, I forced people who I thought would be adequate to join BPA," Northey said, with a laugh. "It's a good way to test our skills."

Northey encouraged both Thomas and Heppner to join BPA. Heppner, who joined just last year, competes in the same category as Northey and they have formed a friendly rivalry. 

In the accounting competition, students learn things like how to balance books at a business, according to Northey. They also give advice on mock business scenarios presented to them. Northey said it teaches students the ability to lead and think critically. 

"I learned a lot about business in real life and got to experience real life situations," Heppner said.

She though the competition aspect was fun and was happily surprised when she placed during her first year competing. 

For this year's national competition, the two accounting students have one goal: beat the other one. 

Northey said his two goals going in is to beat Heppner and place top 10 in one of his events. Heppner said her primary goal is to beat Northey with a secondary of placing top 20. 

Thomas placed highly in business law and ethics last year, but was shocked to find out she'd taken top prize in the state. She said as the announcers read through the top 10 she became bewildered as they counted down forth, third and then second place without calling her name. 

"I thought I definitely did well, but I was shocked when they called first place," Thomas said. 

Heading back to the national competition is big for Thomas, her primary goal in this year's competition is to place top 10. 

Terri Norman has been advising BPA students for the past eight years and has had national qualifiers every year. Last year, she was recognized as the top BPA adviser in the state. She said students like these put a ton of effort into preparing, planning and practicing for this competition. 

"I have great pride in watching the students prepare and compete," Norman said. "It makes me proud to see them called on stage to receive awards and recognition. At nationals, they compete with over 5,000 students and it is always exciting to see students recognized and placing in the top 10."

Norman said even if they don't place, her students gain much experience just by attending. Many of Norman's students go on to be successful in business.

"It is truly a rewarding experience for me to get to work with these students outside the classroom and expose them to real-world experiences," Norman said. 

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Education and Business Reporter

Education and Business reporter for Helena Independent Record.

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