IR’s Clark takes first at BPA nationals in presentation management

Date Published: 
May 26, 2017

Coastal Point • Submitted: IR senior David Clark took first place for presentation management at the BPA National Leadership Conference held in Orlando, Fla. from May 10 to May 14.Coastal Point • Submitted: IR senior David Clark took first place for presentation management at the BPA National Leadership Conference held in Orlando, Fla. from May 10 to May 14.David Clark knows a thing or two about management.

The soon-to-be graduate of Indian River High School has spent the past four years managing his time while juggling a laundry list of extracurricular commitments, ranging from the student council and his responsibilities as the senior class president, to his involvement with the Leo Club and National Honor Society, to running for the varsity cross-country team and helping lead the varsity boys’ tennis team to a Henlopen South division championship this past spring, just to name a few.

With his wide array of leadership roles and as a four-year member in the school’s Business Professionals of America (BPA) organization, Clark also knows a thing or two about presentations, often finding himself being called upon to give a speech during school-wide pep rallies or a senior scholarship awards ceremony.

So when he was called upon to deliver his most important speech to date earlier this month — this time with the focus on the very subject of presentation management, at the BPA National Leadership Conference on Orlando, Fla. — David Clark knew a thing or two about not being nervous, as he went on to take first place in the country and bring home the school’s first BPA national title since 2007.

“By nationals, I was very comfortable with the material that I had,” said Clark of the conference held May 10-14. “I think, over the past four years, my presentation skills have developed through Business Pathways. I’ve just become comfortable with public speaking.”

“He knew his material, so he could go off-the-cuff,” said BPA advisor Stephanie Wilkinson. “Any question presented to him after the fact, he was very comfortable in answering because he had done the work.”

While the presentation would turn out to be the pinnacle of Clark’s BPA career, the preparation began earlier this school year and continued throughout the road to nationals.

Behind the slogan “Shop local, shop different,” the idea was to put together a campaign to pitch to BPA judges, acting as a local chamber of commerce on the benefits of shopping local in terms of potential marketing strategies, cost analysis, businesses appeal and target markets.

For research, the aspiring entrepreneur reached out to some of the already-established entrepreneurs that’s he’s grown to admire while growing up in Sussex County, consulting with Scott Mumford from Warren’s Station and Paul Parsons from Parsons Produce for their expert opinions on the subject.

“Working at Warren’s Station and Parsons Produce, I knew that they were two businesses that were successful and that had given back to the community extensively,” said Clark. “Living in a small area like we do in Sussex County, I think that small businesses are what helps the community progress. We support those small businesses, and then they support us — it just goes full circle.”

By the state competition, Clark had his pitch down, staying committed to the project and punching his ticket to nationals after placing first in the state.

After taking suggestions from the judges at states into consideration and making the necessary adjustments for his final presentation, Clark turned his attention to helping out some of his younger classmates on their own BPA ventures.

IRHS had six other students qualify for the conference in Orlando, but with seniors Hayden McWilliams and Griffin McCormick unable to attend while they were still battling for a Henlopen South division title on the lacrosse field, Clark found himself the sole senior leader amongst underclassmen including Alexa Fitz, Brooke Weaver, Michael Payan and Helen Davis.

“David is so enthusiastic about everything that the other kids feed off of that. I love when he gives them feedback, because they really listen to him,” said Wilkinson. “He gives very good creative criticism and, with his enthusiasm, they get excited about it. He’s just that type of leader.”

Fitz would go on to place sixth in the nation competing in the same presentation management category as Clark, with Weaver taking 15th in entrepreneurship, Payan placing 18th in prepared speech and Davis taking 20th in interview skills, all competing against students from 28 different states.

Through trips to Florida this year and to Boston, Mass., for nationals last spring, Wilkinson said that working as a team has been a key factor in the club’s success.

“They all work together as a group. They all push each other. We saw that a lot this year,” she explained. “It’s a great bonding experience for our whole district, really, when we go to nationals. It’s a lot of fun. We become a family, almost, while we’re there, and I think the kids really enjoy it.”

Both Clark and Wilkinson said they were excited to see what the future holds for BPA, which has established itself as one of the top organizations at the school over the years.

“We have several younger ninth- and 10th-graders that were interested this year, and I think that they’ll continue with it next year,” said Wilkinson. “They see what it’s all about. They see that the hard work is paying off with what David has done, what Helen has done, what Griffin and Hayden have done, and how they’ve placed. It’s something that catches on and makes them want to go for the same thing.”

“I think it’s just the beginning of the success for Indian River BPA,” added Clark. “That’s the most important thing for me, is to be able to leave something behind, trying to help some of the kids just starting out understand what appeals to judges and just the little things that Mrs. Wilkinson has helped me with.”

As for Clark, the reigning national champ aspires to take his skills in management, presentation, public speaking and everything else that he’s learned during his time with BPA to the business world, ready put his “Shop local, shop different” mantra to real-world use and give back to his community.

He’ll set off for Rome, Italy, in August as part of the World Scholar program at the University of Delaware, and plans to spend a semester during his junior year in New Zealand. After that, he’s off to tackle Wall Street, with a dream of one day taking his own marketing firm to the Fortune 500 level and eventually launching a political career.

But before he starts delivering speeches to board members, Clark still has one more speech to make during his high school career, ready to pass the torch to the next generation on the day that his high school career comes to a close at the Indian River High School graduation ceremony in June.

“David has the drive. He’s going to do what it takes to succeed,” said Wilkinson. “He’s a perfectionist to a point where things have to be just right. He also has a creative ability that I’ve not seen in any other student. We’re definitely going to miss him next year.”