Nine Pickerington High School North students will travel to southern California to showcase their multimedia talents at a national leadership conference.

Nine Pickerington High School North students will travel to southern California to showcase their multimedia talents at a national leadership conference.

From May 5-9, scores of vocational students from throughout the U.S. will travel to Anaheim, Calif., to participate in the Business Professionals of America's National Leadership Conference.

The conference showcases projects from each state's standout students and also seeks to develop students' leadership, citizenship and technical skills to prepare them to enter the workplace following graduation.

The nine PHS North students are nearing completion of a two-year multimedia course taught at the school by Doug Rider, a multimedia instructor from Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools.

PHS North senior Taylor Kantor will compete at the national conference after recently being named an Ohio state champion in fundamental Web site design.

PHS North seniors Christian Gainey, Nick Hissrich, Connor Sibrick and Drade Snyder will take part in the national conference's computer animation competition. They earned the trip after placing second in the state competition for computer animation with their virtual tour of Washington, D.C.

Four other students - Kayla Byler, Meghan Logue, Erica Malone and Jessica McManus - will participate in the national conference's National Leadership Academy, aimed at increasing individual leadership skills and teaching how to relate them to real-life situations.

"This is the seventh year for the (multimedia) program, and we've gone to the national conference six out of the seven years," Rider said. "One of our main goals early on in the year is at least to get to the national conference."

In addition to competing against other students from throughout the country who've designed Web sites and created computer animation projects, the conference will give the Pickerington students an opportunity to develop leadership, teamwork, public speaking and listening skills.

"It's basically all the soft skills that are going to be necessary for them to succeed and thrive in our society and in business," Rider said. "For my students, it helps prepare them from a technologies aspect."

The California trip is the culmination of the students' two-year tutelage under Rider. Throughout their junior and senior years, they have spent two periods a day focusing on creating professional-quality Web sites, as well as other creative projects involving animation, photography, graphic design and video, Rider said.

"The multimedia program seeks to prepare students for careers in this field, while fostering an environment where students can develop leadership, creativity, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and project management skills," he said. "Most students from multimedia continue their education in college - in fact, through partnerships with (Central Ohio Technical College) and Shawnee State, students in multimedia have an opportunity to earn up to 43 college credits while they are in high school.

"This gives them a great chance to get a head start on furthering their education."

In addition to competing and learning, the BPA sponsors several recreational activities at the conference. This year, the list includes a trip to see the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers play at Dodger Stadium and a trip to Santa Monica Beach for some sun and a look at the Pacific Ocean.

"It should be a lot of fun for the students," Rider said. "For me, I love teaching (the multimedia program), and we always like to say we work hard and we play hard.

"By the time these students are seniors, they can specialize in what tugs at their hearts, their passions," he said. "This is a chance for them to show off their skills on a national level."