COLUMBUS — A record-setting year for the Lakeview High School FBLA program got a little grander when one student earned a top finish at the national competition.
Cole Tessendorf took first during the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California.
It was the third time the recent Lakeview graduate qualified for nationals. The previous experience worked like a charm as he bested the competition in the sales presentation event.
“I thought I would make top 10, but I didn’t think I would win,” Tessendorf said.
He was joined at nationals, held June 29 through July 2, by seven other Lakeview students, giving the school its most qualifiers ever.
Tessendorf wasn't the only member of the Lakeview chapter to place in the top 10, which allows students to be recognized on stage.
Jennifer Jimenez and Blair Stuthman teamed up in the publication design category to grab seventh place.
They created a cooking show called “The Uncanny Granny” and promotional materials. After doing well enough in the preliminary round, the two May graduates earned a spot among the 16 finalists. That's when they hit a snag.
“It didn’t go as smoothly as we wanted. We had a projector malfunction. We tested it and everything, and once we started the next slide didn’t go,” Jimenez said.
They soldiered on, though.
“We just had to present without it at that point. It was kind of nerve-racking,” Stuthman said.
They did well enough to earn themselves a spot on stage.
Tessendorf used his speech skills to work his way through a surprise in judging as he made a sales pitch for Boot Tux, a stirrup that clips onto jeans to keep them tucked into boots. He was told right before he was to start that the judge would be firing off questions for him during his seven-minute presentation. Usually, questions are reserved until a presentation is over.
It was a curve ball Tessendorf had to adjust his speech to so he wouldn’t go over the time limit and receive a penalty. He relied on his ability to improvise, a skill he sharpened during speech season.
“My speech coach forced me to do impromptu, which I hated. But I was actually really good at it and I think that really helped me in my sales presentation because I had to do a lot of it in the finals on the fly,” he said.
The success at nationals was a good ending to his time at Lakeview.
“This was my last go at Lakeview. This was it. There was nothing more after this. It was really, really nice to finish on top,” Tessendorf said.
The achievements were also the cherry on top of a 34-year career as an FBLA adviser for Jan Went.
Went began advising FBLA at Scotus Central Catholic before moving on to Lakeview in 1995. She helped grow the Lakeview program from 40 members to the largest one in Class B. This year there were 202 members.
Went had students go to nationals in 30 of her 34 years and eight of them, including Tessendorf, Jimenez and Stuthman, placed there.
She decided this was going to be her last year leading the program after experiencing health problems last summer. During that time, Went said, she re-evaluated what was really important to her. Even though Went said she loves FBLA, a program she was a member of in high school and college, it is a big time commitment.
She chose to give up being an adviser to spend more time with her family.
The accomplishments of the students this year put an exclamation point on her FBLA stint.
“There is no better way to go out,” Went said.
Tessendorf is the first Lakeview student to earn an FBLA national championship in an event they qualified for during the state competition. Former student Amy Chin was also a top finisher, but that was in an open event.
Other Lakeview students who went to nationals this year were Nick Dolezal, Blake Langmack, Jarrod Blaser and Halla Paschold.
Students put in hours of work throughout the year for FBLA and even got in extra practice at nationals. That little boost is what Tessendorf said helped the Lakeview students succeed.
“I think the reason we do so well is because we rehearse every night. I feel that sets us apart," he said. "In my final round and their (Jimenez and Stuthman) final round, we had to improvise a little bit, but you’d never know because we knew our stuff so well."