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Portage High grad places No. 4 in nation in computer category

July 7, 2017 GMT

Haley Schuster stood on the big stage at Future Business Leaders of America’s national competition in Anaheim, California, uncertain of how far up she’d climb in the placing for her category.

The names were read from tenth to first, so the longer she waited, the better.

“I kept expecting it to be my name, so every time it wasn’t I thought, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’” the recent Portage High School graduate said. Schuster knew she’d scored a top-10 finish prior to the names being read, eventually learning, right then on the stage, in front of thousands, that she had placed fourth in the nation in computer applications.

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“I did not expect it whatsoever,” she said. Schuster, as the names were called, watched one of her friends standing beneath the stage -- an effort to stay grounded “so that I could take it all in without getting super nervous.”

Students qualified for nationals from their performances at state competition in Appleton in April, where the school placed second overall out of 179 others.

Portage FBLA adviser Jan Imhoff, Schuster and the 14 other students returned from their weeklong trip to nationals late Monday, an experience for them all that Imhoff termed “exciting.” Having a local student place in the top-five at nationals, Imhoff added, is something that happens only “every few years.”

“It’s very special; it’s very awesome,” Imhoff said. “They all work really hard to get that far.”

Schuster, Imhoff said, was the only Portage student to “make stage” -- otherwise known as the top 10 -- but everyone “felt good” about their performances at the Anaheim Convention Center, which hosted more than 9,600 high school students from across the U.S.; not to mention they enjoyed the state itself -- all “the touristy stuff.”

‘Glitz and glamour’

In Anaheim, students visited Hollywood, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and the Santa Monica Pier. They took in the iconic Hollywood sign; they visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with its many stars on sidewalks.

“I never realized it was so long,” Schuster said of the Walk of Fame -- which goes on for more than a mile.

They toured the Adobe Theater, where the Academy Awards are held; they visited the big outdoor Farmers Market -- “a big deal in L.A.,” Imhoff said; and they “put their feet in the Pacific Ocean, which was a first for many of them,” she added.

The students sat on the front steps of television’s “Full House” at Warner Brothers Studios, where they also viewed the set of “Big Bang Theory” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” They even took their pictures while sitting on the famous couch of the TV show, “Friends.”

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“‘Friends’ hasn’t been on air for a while,” Imhoff said, remembering her students’ glee that day, “but they must be watching that on Netflix like crazy.”

“It was all the glitz and glamour of what you see on TV -- but now you get to experience it,” Imhoff said.

What’s next?

Schuster, FBLA Portage’s president in 2016-17, completed four years in FBLA, and will embark on college life in the fall. She’ll attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in chemistry, with aspirations to get into medical school.

“Right now I’m thinking something like a family doctor,” she said of her future. “I just want to help people, and be able to treat them and help them find a cure to whatever their problem is.”

Schuster qualified for FBLA Nationals last year, in the same category, but she couldn’t go because she went to Germany as part of the school’s exchange program. Not being able to go last year, she said, inspired her to work hard to get to Anaheim this year.

In computer applications, Schuster and the other Nationals competitors -- about 150 of them -- took two-hour tests in May (in their respective states) to demonstrate their knowledge of Microsoft programs, making reports and doing spreadsheets, using Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access. In Anaheim, Schuster and the others took a multiple choice test of 100 questions. Schuster and the school will never learn exactly how well she scored, Imhoff said (they never do), but it was obviously good enough for a top-10 finish.

Computer applications doesn’t apply directly to Schuster’s career ambitions, but she wanted to do it “because a lot of work places use the Microsoft Office products, and they’re really great tools for every day; they make things easier.”

Schuster’s performance in Anaheim was her third time qualifying for nationals in her high school career.

“She’s worked really hard,” Imhoff said.

An excellent choice

FBLA is an option for any high school student, regardless of their interests, Schuster said. “It left me with a lot of leadership -- experience that I can go forward with -- to network and lead a team. You can use that in any aspect in life, because you’re going to be working with people no matter what you do. It’s a great way to further my knowledge outside of the classroom, and hopefully to lead others in organizations (in the future).

“The most memorable part,” Schuster continued, “was just being able to spend time with a group of juniors I didn’t always get to hang out with (in school) -- to see all their reactions, to see things we’ve never seen before, together; the opportunities that other kids might not get to experience.”

As a chemistry major, Schuster’s not sure if she’ll join the college version of FBLA -- Phi Beta Lambda -- but she will “definitely” check it out.

What’s Schuster’s advice for Portage High School underclassmen?

“Give it a chance,” she said of FBLA, “because FBLA opens up so many doors, that you don’t know where it will lead you. I’m getting so much done, I don’t even know where to start.”

Part of the FBLA experience, she added, is just meeting “new people” -- whether they be in your school, your state or from across the country.

“I used to be very shy as a freshman, and I came a long way to learn that I can do a lot more.”

Other Portage High School competitors iwere seniors Taya Briggs, Haley Tollison and Lien Weiss; juniors Annika Hentz, Payton Knaack and Emma Shortreed; sophomores Emma Goldthorpe, Elise Kilde, Hunter Warzecha and Carissa Weber; freshmen Chloe Druckrey, Gabrielle Garrigan, Abby Leeland and Hannah Ness.