Shavawnte Sullivan, president of Oak Forest High School's Business Professionals Association club and editor of the school newspaper, poses at the school in Oak Forest, IL on Friday September 28, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 27, 2012 6:01AM
Shavawnte Sullivan is getting a leg up on the competition when it comes to his post-high school career.
The Oak Forest High School senior is president of the school’s Business Professionals of America, a spin-off of the national organization. He joined the club as a junior with one goal in mind.
“I wanted to be able to find a job,” said Sullivan, 18.
He is a practical guy and enjoys the BPA-sponsored competitions and the experience he gains.
“Most things you learn in school are not things you can use outside of school, but this stuff I can use, like learning how to do resumes and handle yourself in a job interview,” he said.
The group relies on fundraisers to help them travel to competitions. This year’s national competition is in Florida, so Sullivan recently organized a Halloween sale and also is planning to sell T-shirts to raise money.
Competitions challenge students to accomplish tasks on the computer, such as typing up resumes and testing their proficiency in business software such as Microsoft Word, Access and Excel.
“I’ve learned a lot, and if I were to get an entry-level job, I could do a lot of the things I learned from BPA, like creating databases,” said Sullivan, a BPA state qualifier last year.
Sullivan also is editor of Oak Forest High School’s newspaper, Vedas.
“I’ve always been into reading and writing, so when I moved here as a sophomore, I wanted to join some clubs to get to know people,” he said.
Sullivan started writing articles and grabbed all the assignments he could.
“I made sure I had an article in each paper and I went to everything and did more than what they asked me,” he said.
Taking on extra work and being assertive earned him a promotion from reporter to editor.
Although the school paper and BPA take up a lot of his day, Sullivan also is a senior leader at school.
He takes his busy schedule in stride.
“Because it is what I want to do, it is so easy for me to keep track of everything I do here,” he said.
Sullivan, the son of Shawanda Sullivan, of Midlothian, said his uncle, Jamar Sullivan, of Chicago, is his role model.
“He went through a lot. As a kid, he had to take charge and do everything,” Shavawnte said. “He made the best of his life and he is very successful now, working on an elite squad with the Chicago Fire Department. He travels around teaching people who want to be in firefighting. He also has his own business. He is very successful.”
Sullivan plans to major in business and minor in English in college so he can be just as successful.
“I want to learn how to write legal documents and work for a big corporation,” he said.
He has a school in mind.
“I always said I wanted to go to Stanford University and I’d like to achieve that goal. I really like the reputation of the school,” he said. “I researched it and I like the location. I don’t know how to explain it except that I like the school.”
Ultimately, Sullivan is motivated by wanting to achieve the American dream.
“One day, when I am older, I want to be independent and own a house, have a nice car and be able to travel,” he said. “That’s why I keep myself afloat. I want to get to that point.”