PACE — Preparing for the professional world at an early age, professionals say, is a smart thing to do.

Teachers at Sims Middle School have students do just that in the form of a competition called "Amazing Shake" where students practice their business skills, including interviewing, etiquette and dress before some of the most well-known community professionals in the area. 

The opening round of the competition took place at Sims Middle School. From there, the top five students went to Navy Federal in Pensacola where a panel of executives interviewed them and asked job-interview questions. The top three students moved on final round at Jackson’s Steakhouse in Pensacola.

Haley Dunckel won this year's Amazing Shake, followed by first runner-up Mackenzie Kummer and second runner-up Rivers Lewis.

Sims history teacher Ashley Carter oversaw planning of the competition. She said the initial event began with students simply having face-to-face conversations with adult professionals.

"We invited local professionals to the school to meet and converse with our student contestants," Carter said. "Students rotated through classrooms at the school where they had to walk in, introduce themselves and spend five minutes in the room engaging in conversation with an adult they have never met." 

Carter said the students were scored on their poise, confidence and communication skills. For the semifinal round, she said students engaged in a business mingling situation with district administrators and school board members to test their ability to “work a room” without assistance.

"Judges were asked to mix and mingle with each other, moving around the room and conversing casually with one another," she said. "Students in that round needed to figure out how to insert themselves into ongoing conversations, navigate through a moving crowd, and end conversations gracefully in order to make it around to all judges in the room within a certain time-frame." 

Placing in the top five with the top three finishers were Andrew Fendley and Kayla Neely.

In the final round, the three finalists dined with some of the top business, educational and political leaders in our community including Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, Studer Group Director of Operations Carey King, Santa Rosa County Commissioner Sam Parker, Andrews Research and Education Foundation President Ashton Hayward, Gulf Breeze City Councilwoman Renee Bookout and Navy Federal Credit Union Senior Vice President of Operations Kara Cardona.

Sims Middle School Principal Emily Donalson said the school is proud of the students and grateful to the community for their support. 

"This wonderful program would not be possible without the support from so many professionals in the community investing their time to support the future of our students,” Donalson said.