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The next step

File photo Cheniqua Johnson (left) and Larry Leovan (right) are shown with BPA adviser Penny Troe, displaying their trophies earned at the state BPA Spring Leadership Conference.

WORTHINGTON -- Two local high school students will represent Minnesota as they prepare to compete at the National Business Professionals of America (BPA) Spring Leadership Conference in Chicago, Ill.

WHS juniors Cheniqua Johnson and Larry Leovan won first place in interview skills and digital media production, respectively, during the state-level conference March 8-12 at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis.

Johnson and Leovan were among the 16 Worthington students who participated in the Minnesota BPA Spring Leadership Conference.

Leovan is no stranger to the BPA national conference. He competed last year in the same category, but this year he knows what he needs to do better.

In the digital media production category, participants created a one- to two- minute video showcasing what the 2012 national BPA conference in Orlando, Fla., will entail, he said.

"Last year, I had too much motion and graphics and not enough about BPA," he said. "This year, I tried to incorporate more of the feeling and atmosphere of BPA."

Video production is Leovan's second career choice after computer engineering. He explained that he was placed in a video-editing class during his freshman year "because it fit in my schedule" and ever since then has been intrigued with video production.

"I'm hoping to place in the top three at nationals," Leovan said.

This will be Johnson's first time at the national BPA conference. She wasn't expecting to earn first place at the state meet so advancing to nationals is a pleasant surprise.

In the interview skills category, participants are given a list of jobs to select from to compile a portfolio.

"I chose HR because I want to do law, but someday I'd like to manage my own law firm," she said, adding she had to submit a résumé, a job application cover letter and a portfolio.

Johnson competed at the FCCLA national leadership conference in a similar category last year but with a nursing portfolio.

"I think for BPA, a lot of the questions are strictly based off your knowledge of the job," she said, explaining making a good first impression before the judges is equally important.

Johnson credits her involvement in extra-curricular activities with helping her build the confidence and leadership skills needed for the competition.

Despite the heightened sense of competition at the Chicago conference, both students are looking forward to competing and meeting a diverse group of peers.

"It's a great experience, because you're not only representing yourself, school and the city, but the whole state of Minnesota," Leovan said.

Worthington BPA adviser Penny Troe, who will be accompanying the pair to Chicago, is just as excited as her students.

"For some students, competing in the state or national conference is their only chance to get out of Worthington, so it's a great opportunity for them," Troe said. "I want them to grow professionally and personally."

Johnson and Leovan have compromised attending the Worthington High School prom this year in order to compete at the national conference, Troe added.

The National BPA Spring Leadership Conference is scheduled from April 25-29.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321.