This year's Pennsylvania Business Leaders of America competition couldn't have been more aptly named.

Dubbed as "The Gateway to Greatness", the event held in Hershey featured over 4,000 students who competed in more than 60 categories, attended professional workshops, and met with business leaders from across the country.

Kerry Palumbo, FBLA co-advisor, Palmerton Area High School, recently read a letter to the school board on behalf of business instructor Jennifer Danzeisen, who could not attend.

Palumbo said Danzeisen wanted to congratulate all 14 of the students who attended this year's conference, as well as for their excellent performance results.

"The PAFBLA teaches students to excel in communication, technology, problem-solving, effective speaking, and community service, all of which will be helpful to them in their future," Danzeisen said in her statement. "This conference has given me and Mrs. Palumbo the motivation and desire to recruit more students to join our club and prepare them for these competitive events next year."

Danzeisen added "we know we have talented students who have developed skills at Palmerton Area High School to compete with schools that have anywhere from 100-400 students in their FBLA clubs."

"After observing the thousands of students at this conference, I was extremely proud to be a business teacher at Palmerton Area High School," she said. "Our students were well-behaved, well-dressed, and well-mannered the entire time we were there."

Further, Danzeisen added "they were able to take away lessons from the conference that will help them in the real world ... an invaluable experience for each of them."

"Thank you to the administration and school board for supporting our club and giving us this opportunity for us to attend," she said. "And thank you to the teachers in the Palmerton Area School District who have helped these students achieve their personal best."

Palumbo said Hazleton Area High School has as many FBLA members as Palmerton High School has in its freshman, sophomore and junior classes combined, and sent 80 members to states. By contrast, Palmerton, with 34 members, sent 14 to states, she said.

"One of the things I learned at states was just how prestigious qualifying for states is in our region," Palumbo said. "Of the 28 regions in PA, ours, number 21, is one of the most competitive."

Palumbo said she also learned that nationally, Pennsylvania is only second to California in the number of students who place at that level.

"All this is a preface to help our community understand just how amazingly our students performed, and how proud our community should be in their achievement," she said. "So, I present to you the 2012 State FBLA qualifiers, and I ask that they stand as their names are called."

Senior Karl Pielmeier had the first place win in the Job Interview category, and received an invitation to the National FBLA Competition next month in San Antonio, TX. Additionally, Pielmeier placed eighth in Current Events, an open category in which anyone who attended the conference could compete in.

Senior Alex Miller took home a third place in Word Processing, while freshman Charles Debski took home a third place in Word Processing I. Both students may have the opportunity to move on to Nationals if the students in first and second place decline their spots. Debski did receive the invitation.

Junior Erika Hudock took home fifth place in Fashion Merchandising, as well as ninth place in Computer Applications, while junior Morgan Mummey placed sixth in Computer Applications.

"While not all of our students were recognized on stage, all of our students placed in the top half of all students tested in their categories at the state level, and most placed in the Top 25," Palumbo said. "So, at this time, I would like the entire team to stand, and I would ask that you congratulate the 2011-12 Palmerton FBLA state championship team."

Palumbo said both she and Danzeisen "enjoyed ourselves immensely this year, and we look forward to next year."

"Once again, thank you for your support and your encouragement," she said. "We came back invigorated and ready to increase our presence at both the regional and state levels next season."