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OCC Students Receive Top Honors at PBL National Leadership Conference

PBL Award PhotoOlney Central College students Matthew Runyon and Ben Baker received top honors at the Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) National Leadership Conference held June 24-27 in Anaheim.

The pair joined more than 1,800 of America’s best and brightest college students who traveled to Southern California to establish their own Legacy of Leadership as they competed for the opportunity to win more than $95,000 in cash awards in 60 business and business-related competitive events. The OCC students were among the top finishers with Runyon bringing home first-place awards in both Agribusiness and Current Events and Baker placing seventh in Sports Management and Marketing.

“It was really exciting,” Runyon said. “You never know how many students you will be competing against. I met several whose career paths are similar to mine. To receive not one, but both first-place awards with so many students interested in the same area, it was pretty incredible.”

Runyon, of Noble, and Baker, of Olney, were called to the stage and their accomplishments recognized during the PBL Awards of Excellence Program.

“It was pretty awesome. I didn’t expect to make the top 10 or even place in the national competition,” Baker said. “It was cool to be on the stage. I think it showed that what we are doing has paid off in a big way. We didn’t just take a trip to California. I think placing as well as we did really validates the impact of PBL at OCC.”

The awards are a part of a comprehensive national competitive events program sponsored by Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda that recognizes and rewards excellence in a broad range of business and career-related areas. For many students, the competitive events are the capstone activity of their academic careers. In addition to competitions, students immersed themselves in interactive workshops, visited an information-packed exhibit hall, and heard from motivational keynote speakers on a broad range of business topics.

To qualify to compete at Nationals, students must place first or second at the State Competition level. In addition to their winning categories, Runyon competed in Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, while Baker tackled Agribusiness, Current Events and Contemporary Sports Issues.

“It is a joy to see students compete in fields that they are passionate about and earn recognition for their hard work,” said Amie Mayhall, who along with fellow OCC instructor and PBL Advisor Shasta Bennett, accompanied the students to the convention.

In addition to the recognition that Runyon and Baker received for their competitive events, they were awarded $400 National Leadership Conference scholarships to help defray the cost of attending.

“What an amazing opportunity it is for students to be able to attend and compete in this yearly national convention,” Bennett said. “I enjoy watching students network and make lasting friendships at the convention as well as taking them to see a few of the area sights they may not otherwise have many chances to visit.”

Runyon, who graduated in May, will transfer to the University of Illinois this fall to major in crop science, with a concentration in plant biotechnology. Baker, who plans to study aerospace engineering, will return to OCC.

“I want to thank our advisors for all of the hard work they put in and the college community,” Runyon added. “We appreciate their support in encouraging us to be the best we can be.”

Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda, Inc., the premier student business organization, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) education association with a quarter million members and advisers in more than 6,500 active middle school, high school and college chapters worldwide. Its mission is to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs. The association is headquartered in Reston, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. For more information, visit



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