For the first time in 11 years, Pawhuska High School will have a student competing at the nationals of Business Professionals of America. The student, Lynnlea McGuire, has used her BPA participation to push beyond her normal “comfort zone” and develop skills as a public speaker.


She is preparing for four days in Anaheim, Calif. in early May, during which she will give a five- to seven-minute motivational speech as an element of national competition.


McGuire, 18, is perhaps better known to the community as an athlete or a musician. She has participated in girls basketball and track, the school band and a worship band at church. She was comfortable singing in front of other people, but public speaking was a different challenge, she explained.


“If you’re talking to people it’s all on you,” McGuire said, observing that when you’re in a band you have fellow band members and an instrument to give you a sort of “cover” that disappears when you step out and give a public address.


Lynnlea has participated in BPA since her sophomore year at PHS, and she wanted to compete in public speaking her first year, but discovered she wasn’t ready.


“I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have as much confidence as I have now,” she said. The next year, as a junior, Lynnlea placed eighth at state, and that gave her the confidence to move forward.


“I feel like that also gave me more confidence because it proved that I can do this,” she said. “I just needed to work at it a little bit more.”


This year she placed second at state. The top three placers in Oklahoma were chosen for nationals, and she will be practicing hard to prepare for her big moment.


“It’s going to be a tough competition,” says Sharon Holloway, who is Lynnlea’s BPA adviser at Pawhuska High School. Holloway said public speaking is just one of more than 40 categories of competition for students participating in BPA activities. Other categories include everything from job interview skills to computer-related subjects.


Up through the state-level competition, Lynnlea has been able to at least refer to a printed copy of her speech while delivering it. At nationals, she will have the speech committed to memory. The speech is about the building blocks of a successful business.


“It’s an inspirational speech, and I talk about having a good mindset,” she said. Lynnlea will be judged on the quality of her speech, but also on elements such as dress and personal presentation. Holloway is helping her both with the speech and with fundraising activities to help cover her expenses for the trip.


In addition to valuable aid from Holloway, Lynnlea has received coaching from PHS speech teacher Charles Jeffrey and credits him with sharing tips with her that are helping her hone her skills.


“He’s done it for so many years that he really knows all the tips and tricks so that’s really helped me,” McGuire said. She additionally thanked all of her teachers for offering her help with the speech and giving her time to go to Holloway’s classroom to work on BPA activities.


McGuire has decided she wants to major in Business next year at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. She hopes to graduate and go to work for an established company before eventually starting her own business. She is the daughter of Sean McGuire and Holly Hagen and the sister of Hagen McGuire.


Holloway hopes Lynnlea McGuire is just the first of many Pawhuska students to make it to BPA nationals in the coming years. Holloway will be teaching grades seven and eight next year and trying to fill the pipeline, as it were, with youth prepared to excel in BPA competition.