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A quartet of North Marion FBLA members earned a trip to the National Leadership Conference in San Antonio

COURTESY OF NORTH MARION SCHOOL DISTRICT - Left to right, Alondra Ruiz, Kevin Rojas, Monica Villarreal and James Patterson: North Marion students earned a trip to San Antonio for a Future Business Leaders of America National Leadership Conference.New experiences are on the horizon for four North Marion students who delivered stellar regional performances at the Future Business Leaders of America competitions.

Senior James Patterson and sophomores Alondra Ruiz, Monica Villarreal and Kevin Rojas all departed for San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday, June 27, for the FBLS National Conference, a trip earned via their regional feats. It marks the first foray to Texas for the students and for North Marion to a national FBLA event.

Ruiz took second in the regional Business Communications category. Villarreal snagged third in Word Processing and Patterson third and Rojas fifth in Help Desk.

Ruiz said her competition comprised of a 100-question test on business language and grammar, taken in under an hour. She surprised herself.

"To say that I was surprised that I placed second in state is an understatement; when my name was called at the state conference, I burst out in laughter because I was so baffled that I did so well," Ruiz said. "I was not expecting to place at all, let alone qualify for nationals, so I knew that I would need to begin studying hard if I wanted to do well at the national competition."

Villarreal viewed her competition and the work to achieve it as a practical pursuit.

"I participated and placed third in the Word Processing, and it just made me realize how important having basic word processing skill and knowledge is," Villarreal said. "So many careers require employees to at least know how to type at a certain level or how to structure certain documents, and I feel like everyone should at least check out the Word Processing classes our school offers.

"Although be warned: if you do take that class be prepared to have sore and cramped fingers from all that typing!"

Rojas said his incentive to finish strong at regionals came, in part, out of fear – the fear of being left out.

"I remember that there were only 11 of us who qualified in the whole state for my event…and I was freaking out, because I didn't want to be that 11th person that didn't get their name called at the ceremony," Rojas said. "I remember talking to my adviser, (Kelly Ioane), and she told me to stay up all night studying and learning everything there was to know about IT problems. She said to me 'tomorrow I want to hear your name be called out, you better not be that 11th person.'"

Rojas confessed that he didn't stay up all night, but he did stress that those words of encouragement "drove me to try my best in my event."

Rojas looked forward to carrying that drive over to San Antonio, where he planned to meet new people and expand his horizons.

"I hope that by the time this conference is done my business knowledge expands," he said.

Villarreal views the conference with the same perspective she had for regionals; one of practicality.

"I hope that from his experience to not only learn many valuable lessons…but to also learn how to apply these skills in not only high school or college but for the rest of my life," she said. "In addition, this will be a great chance for me to begin making some social connections with other competitors who have similar interest in the business world like me. And I wouldn't mind making a friend or two."

Ruiz also wouldn't mind making friends at the event. She takes delight in the lessons she's garnered from FBLA club, and is hungry for more.

"While at the conference, I hope to learn more leadership skills and ways to advance in the business world," Ruiz said. "After taking an accounting class last year, I absolutely fell in love with it and want to pursue it as a career.

"However, I tend to be more introverted and reserved, so I'm hoping that by attending this conference I will be able to break out of my shell and learn the skills I need to thrive once I enter the business world."

The students hope that their work inspires others.

"I hope that this encourages more of my peers to try out and compete in these events because they really are both fun and insightful," Villarreal said.

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