No student in TCU High School history has ever been elected to the State Executive Team for Business Professionals of America (BPA). That is, until senior Brandon Balma was named executive vice president of the state organization.
“I think he’s taken us to the next level and set a precedent of what quality looks like,” said Stacy Lindblom, TCU’s BPA advisor.
Balma has already broken his share of BPA records for TCU. In 2018, he was among the first batch of TCU students to compete in the Torch Awards program, which requires students to earn 50 points on the state level and 70 points on the national level in each of several categories. As a junior, his financial analyst team hit another peak by placing third in its division at the state BPA competition.
After running for executive office last year, Balma knew what to expect the second time around. He amped up his campaign and used his past experience as a motivational force to give smaller regions, like the Tri-City United area, a stronger voice in the BPA program.
“A lot of people from smaller schools don’t feel they’re being seen or heard,” said Balma. “I think about bringing multiple perspectives into the program so they can come to state and nationals in D.C. and showcase what the whole state has to offer.”
He credits Lindblom for helping him succeed as well as his campaign manager and best friend, Cohl Paggen.
“For our program, I feel like it put BPA on the board for TCU,” said Lindblom. “For us as a business department, it made us very proud to be able to go to that level.”
Paggen, also a BPA member, added that Balma’s accomplishment is especially groundbreaking for a small school like TCU.
Becoming a state executive for BPA was a rigorous process. He spent Oct. 27 and 28 at the Hyatt Place in Minneapolis, where he took a test on the state and national BPA programs, delivered his campaign speech, completed interviews with delegates and held a campaign rally complete with posters and “Balma-a” lip balm.
During the caucuses, Balma’s last chance to gain voter approval, he met with representatives from each region and answered rapid-fire questions regarding his campaign. The next morning, he learned he had made the cut.
“It was pretty surprising to see I got the second highest [position],” said Balma.
As one of the new faces of the Minnesota BPA organization, Balma said he and his team will focus on BPA goals like improving communication with a stronger social media presence. He’d also like to expand upon the BPA Torch Award program, which concentrates on giving back to the community through acts of service, and show smaller schools what it looks like to compete on the state and national level. Since his five team members attend other Minnesota high schools, Balma said the majority of their interaction will be over video chat.
The six team members will also help supervise the state BPA competition in March, the national competition in Washington, D.C. in May, and fall leadership training.
So far, Balma said balancing his state executive responsibilities with the TCU BPA hasn’t been a struggle. As a PSEO (Postsecondary Education Options) student, he devotes more time to BPA on the TCU campus than actual high school classes.
“I want to give back to the [TCU] chapter but also step back to let other students learn to lead,” said Balma. “Also, I think it’s important for some kids to have a person to look up to. It’s a good way to catapult the chapter.”
After high school graduation, Balma plans to either attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C. or the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to major in political science and economics. His ultimate goal is to become a politician.
“Being an executive officer, he’s going to (grow),” said Lindblom. “Especially because Brandon wants to be a politician, it’s so suited for him to go through this real process.”