For Garrett Demaree, his journey to the National Leadership Conference of the Business Professionals of America organization was a trip to Anaheim, California, in the spring of his eighth grade year.
That was followed by a trip to the Nationals in Orlando, Florida; then to Dallas, Texas — and now, as a senior, it’s come full circle back to Anaheim, and the Switzerland County High School senior is graduating as a National Champion.
The Switzerland County BPA organization is already recognized as one of the top chapters in the state and nation, but this is the first time that a Switzerland County student has earned a national title.
Demaree finished first in the nation in Advanced Spreadsheet Applications, which utilizes Microsoft’s Excel program to complete a job for a fictitious organization.
“They set up a mock application that you have to apply the spreadsheet program towards,” Demaree said.
The path to the nationals began at the regional leadership conference, which is held on the first weekend in December. Switzerland County hosts that conference, which is held in part at Ivy Tech in Madison.
“There are five schools in our region,” Demaree said. “You have to be one of the top five in any non-judged event order to advance to the state conference.”
Demaree actually competed at the regional level at Switzerland County High School, as his area is not a judged area, but is based on accuracy of following the instructions and directions and the time it takes to complete the tasks assigned.
“First you’re scored on your accuracy,” he said. “Then in the case of a tie it goes to time.”
Demaree also competed regionally in Advanced Interview Skills — which is a judged event — at the Ivy Tech campus. He said that competitors have to place in the top three in order to move on to the state, which he did, as well.
Demaree said that the number of competitors at the regional level is kept confidential, because they are not in the same room when they are competing; but that changes at the state level.
Earning first place in both Advanced Spreadsheet Applications and Advanced Interview Skills at the regional conference; the state conference was held in Indianapolis on the second weekend in March.
“We had quite a few students from our school who qualified for that,” Demaree said. “There are four of us, at the state competition, qualified for the national competition in our competitive events: myself, Calleigh Powell in Prepared Speech; Sierra Hamilton in ICD 101 Diagnostic Coding; and Sydney Thomas on Fundamental Desktop Publishing.”
At the state conference, Demaree said that the event is held at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
“They basically just have a giant room full of hundreds of computers,” he said. “They have different events in different sections of the room. Basically there’s just a bunch of students all competing in their different events at the same time.”
Demaree said that each region can send up to five students in each category; so with 10 regions there were about 50 students competing in each division.
He said that the exam is a completely different problem and spreadsheet from competition to competition, and when he sits down at the competition it’s the first time he’s seen what he will work on.
“At the state it was a financials report for this made up organization; and the one at nationals was a profit potential report, so it’s always different,” Demaree said.
The process begins with a packet of information that contains the overall job that he’s supposed to complete, and Demaree said that the information then provides the steps on how they want the job formatted, what they want the job to do; what formulas in Excel to use, specifically, and then things like charts, pivot tables, and different ways of sorting the data are also included.
The state conference is like the regional conference, where the top five in non-judged events and the top three in judged events advance to nationals — but in a twist of irony, Demaree finished sixth in the state in Advanced Spreadsheet Applications — putting him outside of the group that would advance.
But when one of the competitors chose not to go to the nationals, Demaree got moved up, and the rest is history.
“Had somebody not dropped out, I wouldn’t even have gone to nationals in that event,” he smiled. “I placed third in Advanced Interview Skills, so I was going to nationals; and it wasn’t until after the conference during the nationals meeting to figure out who exactly was going to represent Indiana that we realized that someone had dropped out of my event, so I could be bumped up into that slot.”
Demaree said that he studied a lot following the state competition to prepare himself for the nationals, using the state test and things that he struggled with to hone his skills in those areas,
At the nationals, Demaree was again in a common room with over 100 students, with everyone getting the test at the same time. There is a 90 minute time limit.
“You have an hour and a half to roughly do seven different aspects for that company, so you do seven different jobs, basically, for the same company utilizing the same set of data,” he said.
Demaree said the top 10 competitors in each event are brought onto the main stage during a huge awards ceremony, with the top three being counted down before the national winner is announced.
“It was really an incredible moment,” he said. “There are thousands of BPA students and advisors and parents. It was pretty cool.”
He also finished third overall in Advanced Interview Skills, so it was a pretty special day overall.
Garrett will now move on to the University of Kentucky, where he will study civil engineering. He recently learned he is this year’s recipient of the Ogle Scholarship; and is the son of Ed and Christine Demaree.