The Alice High School Business Professionals of America will once again be represented at the national competition as senior Leandra Barrett placed first in Interview Skills at the state competition in early March.

“I’m really excited,” Leandra said. “I met quite a few people in my event and feel really honored to be selected as first among all of those individuals.”

The BPA state competition was a four-day event running from March 2 to 5 in Ft. Worth. The AHS BPA sent 11 students to the competition where they competed in both individual and team events.

Leandra said the school had a strong presence at the competition, sending one of the largest groups with several of the students participating in the finals of their events.

“I think it’s really great,” she said.

For her event, Interview Skills, Leandra said she had to create a cover letter, application and resume as if she is applying for a company. She then goes through a series of mock interviews for employment with judges comprised of professional interviewers.

“They ask questions, like ‘What do you think you’ll bring to the company?’” Leandra said. “‘What skills do you have?’ or ‘What’s your greatest flaw?’ Things like that to assess your abilities to work in a company.”

For Leandra, it might have been her first year participating in BPA competitions, but it was not the first time her interviewing skills had been put to the test in state competitions.

Leandra has also placed first in Interview in state competitions as part of the AHS Academic Decathlon team in both her sophomore and senior years.

“That definitely has helped and given me a lot of practice,” she said. “The only big difference (between the two) is the Decathlon interview is more of an assessment of what you did in high school whereas the BPA interview goes over things that you might need for a job.”

Leandra said that while Interview Skills is not something that one can really study for, she has taken part in a lot of conversations with adults as an employee with the Law Office of Cristina Soliz, which she said has helped prepare her for the tough questions judges might ask.

“And I get a lot of that working at the law office because as I work with clients and the secretaries, they treat me as an adult,” Leandra said. “And I must act like an adult, not like a student in high school, which has given me an advantage over my competition.”

Leandra will not be traveling to the nation’s capitol alone as the Alice BPA Global Marketing of BPA president Logan Lopez, vice president Christopher Gutierrez and Evan Cordova will also join her at the national competition as alternates.

“As of right now, we’re alternates,” Logan said. “We’re awaiting to hear from the head of BPA because they are overlooking scores. We just had a situation where our judge told us that we had gotten first, but then we were announced as an alternate.”

Last year, the team, which also included AHS graduate Diana Mendoza, placed second in the national competition in Anaheim, Calif.

Although there is a chance his team might not be competing at the national competition, Logan said he did not have any regrets.

“It’s been a really good four years,” he said. “Two state titles and two national finishes, that’s really good. The best part about it, though, is the friends I made and the time I spent enjoying it with people. It’s unforgettable.”

As for what Leandra should expect at the national competition, Logan said she should first have fun but also be prepared.

“State’s tough,” Logan said. “At nationals, I mean everybody’s really good. You’re talking about, in her category, the best three students in every state in the U.S. so it’s very competitive.”

Leandra said her sister and her cousin, both recruiters for businesses, have helped her prepare for nationals by reviewing her application and resume.

“They made sure that I have no grammar errors and that every box is filled in,” she said.

Leandra said she has also been keeping on top of current events to ensure that she is prepared for whatever question she might be asked.

“From what I understand, at the national competition, they are going to use recruiters for Fortune 500 companies to conduct our interviews,” she said. “So they’re going to have real-world experience and know exactly what makes or breaks an employee in a company.

“While that will make the competition a little bit more rigorous, it will definitely be great also. I will be nervous, I know it, once they ask the first set of questions and I get the butterflies out of the way, it turns into more of a conversation rather than an interrogation.”

The national competition will take place in Washington D.C. from May 5 to 8.

AHS BPA advisor Lynette Rivadeneyra said she thanks the Alice ISD school board, AHS teachers and the Alice community for their full support of the program.

“We’re very lucky in that we’ve always had the full support of the community and the school board,” she said. “I’ve always stated that our students can compete with the best and we have proven that year after year after year.”