For York College junior Melissa Strong, crafting a business plan presentation for competition wasn’t about winning. It was about getting one step closer to a dream she’s been building for the past eight years: a christian camp and retreat center that serves low-income, urban youth. 

Strong presented her detailed business plan at the Nebraska Phi Beta Lambda State Leadership Conference on March 31 and April 1, competing against business students from colleges and universities from across the state. Strong placed second in the category of small business management plan, earning a spot at the national competition in California in June. 

UPDATE 07/01/2017: Strong placed fourth in the nation at the PBL competition in California in June. 

York College sophomore Robert Ozuna also competed in this category and placed fourth.

Strong’s passion is evident as she discusses her award-winning business plan and her passion for camp ministry. “I want to help kids who might not have any access to camp find a safe space and find their purpose in life,” she said. Strong has been a camper or a counselor at several Christian camps over the past 13 years. In the summer of 2016, she served as the director of summer programs at Covenant Cedars camp in Hordville, Nebraska, and will repeat in that role this summer. 

Strong is a business administration major with a minor in biblical studies and hails from Giltner, Nebraska. She is involved in theatre, campus ministries, residence hall staff, and Omega Phi social club, in addition to being the event committee co-chair in the York College chapter of PBL. In her senior year at York College, she plans to take a more active leadership role within PBL. This is her first year of participating and competing with PBL. Previously she was a member of the York College speech and debate team, an experience she says was vital for preparing her for success in PBL.

While the PBL competition success is a great experience for Strong personally, she is more excited about bringing recognition to York College and the E.A. Levitt School of Business. “Our business teachers are very supportive,” she said. “Mr. Lewis has been very involved in growing PBL. We are a small program compared to some of the other schools that are competing, but we are performing at a high level in this nationally recognized program.”

“We have a good program with excellent teachers,” she continued. “I want people to know that about York College.” 

Strong also wants students from outside of the business major to know that PBL is open to all majors. “It’s all about communication,” she said. “That’s an area that education majors and many others could get a lot from.”

PBL’s mission is to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs. The York College chapter of PBL is sponsored by Thrivent Financial. For more information about the York College Phi Beta Lambda chapter contact Tim Lewis (, 402-363-5600) or Kaylee Becker (