July 9 – Sydney Allen had only 10 minutes to prepare for her final scenario in the Client Services competition at the Future Business Leaders of America’s National Leadership Conference earlier this month in Baltimore.
Allen, a St. Teresa High School junior, then had to demonstrate how she would handle complaints from a customer of a landscaping business, a role played by one of the competition judges.
“All I was hoping was she would make it to the stage which means she made it in the top 10,” said Sandy Bronson, St. Teresa’s FBLA adviser. “She came out of it going, ‘I don’t know anything about landscaping.’”
Turns out Allen knew enough to impress the judges and come away as a national champion, claiming the trophy and a $1,500 prize.
“I can’t even express the fact that she won it and how incredible that was, how difficult it was,” said Brunson. “I mean, I knew she was good in the event but I don’t think she realized how good she really was.”
The FBLA is a non-profit vocational organization that strives to prepare high school students for careers in business and business administration. More than 10,000 students from across the U.S. and a handful of foreign countries competed in 70 different events at the national conference June 28- July 2.
Allen was one of three members of the St. Teresa chapter competing at the nationals, along with freshman Hannah Hollis and junior KT Voorhees. Hollis participated in Introduction to Public Speaking, while Voorhees was entered in the Community Services Project category.
“All the networking they got to do was amazing to them – the fact that they were talking to not only different chapters from Illinois, but just the fact they got to talk to people and meet people from different states and interact with business people from different industries,” said Bronson.
“Two of them want to go into the medical field and had a chance to talk to doctors from Johns Hopkins about what should they do in high school and what are the things they should do to help prepare them. Those are the kinds of things that they would never have gotten just in their high school experience.”
Competitors must place among the top four in their state in their category to advance to the national conference. St. Teresa’s third-year chapter had four members qualify, but Lauryn Pugh could not make the trip to Maryland. Allen was the only student from Illinois to place first nationally.
Brunson explained that participants are divided into eight sections of about 15-16 for the preliminary round at nationals. Only the top two from each section move on to the final round.
“What you’re doing is taking the best from each room and putting them into finals and you’re competing against the best of the best,” she said.
In the Client Services final, Allen was handed a case study mere minutes before getting face to face with the judge.
“You don’t know what you’re going into,” said Brunson. “She’s interacting with a total stranger regarding the situation; she doesn’t know if the customer is going to be angry or what role the customer is going to take, and she has to react to that. It’s pretty darn difficult.”
Allen, Hollis, Voorhees and Bronson will be guests during the second hour of the Aric Lee Show on WSOY-AM on Monday, July 16.