Hononegah sophomore hopes for Microsoft Office National Championship


(L-R) Two National Championship Qualifiers from Hononegah: Amelia Bronnimann in Adobe and Kaleb Brien in Microsoft Office

In 2021, Certiport invited Kaleb Brien to Dallas, TX to compete in its Adobe Certified Professional U.S. National Championship. Certiport is known for evaluations that help job hunters and employers to verify career skills. 

As a sophomore at Hononegah Community High School, Kaleb still has a few years to go before he needs to launch his full-time career. The Rockton resident plans to major in graphic design in college. But even as a high school student, his skills with Adobe's design software results were already tops in Illinois. Though he didn't win the national Adobe competition in Dallas, he says it was a great experience.

In June, Kaleb is going to try it again - but at a different national championship.

In the fall of 2022, Kaleb took a second competitive Certiport exam, this one in their Microsoft Office Specialist program. On this one, he discovered he had earned a perfect score.

"In January," Kaleb says, "I was informed that I was the Illinois State Champion and invited to compete in the National competition in Orlando, FL in June."

Certiport thinks Kaleb may be the first person to qualify for both the Adobe and Microsoft national championships in the competition's nine year history.

While Adobe makes industry-standard graphic design software, Microsoft Office is considered the worldwide standard for office productivity software. Competing open-source graphics and office software, though it can be downloaded for free, lacks some of the features of these market leaders. 

For the Microsoft Office championships, Kaleb is going to Orlando, FL, in June 26-28, 2023. A live feed of the awards ceremony is scheduled for the afternoon of June 28.

Certiport pays for his meals at the competition, but Kaleb says, "it doesn’t cover airfare, hotel and many other travel related expenses, for me or my required chaperone." His mother Shelley Brien will be accompanying him. Last year in Dallas, Kaleb received a partial sponsorship that paid some of these expenses. But he says, "That same opportunity may not be available to me again this year."

Earning money for the trip presents a challenge. Kaleb has to add more time to study for the competition while maintaining a 4.167 GPA with all AP and honors classes. With two extracurricular activities, traveling to nationals in June and possibly to the world championship in July, scheduling a traditional job would be very difficult. 

So Kaleb became his own part time boss. Shelley says he plans to "sell a fundraiser door to door," giving him added experience in applying for the required permission from Hononegah and a permit from the Village of Rockton. On the weekends, Kaleb is doing odd jobs, giving him experience in negotiating fair prices.

To help corporate sponsors, Certiport suggested that Kaleb and Shelley create a GoFundMe campaign to channel donations.

Shelley says, "We realized that we could make this a learning opportunity all around for him." So Kaleb wrote the main text for the campaign himself, plus a donation letter. "I also taught him how to request sponsorships from businesses, how to format the letter, [and] what information to include." His learning opportunities included lessons on how to stuff and address an envelope - skills that not every young person gets a chance to practice these days.

Kaleb is not the only Hononegah student who has qualified for a Certiport National Championship. Amelia Bronnimann is a Certiport 2023 Adobe Certified Professional U.S. National Championship Qualifier - the same program in which Kaleb competed last year.

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