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Jazzlyn talks with customer David Hamman about a new camera

After winning state and regional contests, Waimea High grad Jazzlyn Pasion-Saflor of Kmart in Lihue returned from Chicago as Kmart’s Ultimate Cashier for winning the national competition

Jazzlyn Pasion-Saflor of Waimea, 20, wins Kmart’s national Ultimate Cashier competition and returns to a hero’s welcome at the airport

Jazzlyn Pasion-Saflor put Kaua’i on the map when she was crowned Kmart’s first “Ultimate Cashier” earlier this month.

Being the best in the nation is a title PasionSaflor intends to wear proudly, especially as a Kaua’i native.

“They never thought a small island would actually go that far,” says the 20year-old Kmart electronics associate.

And she’s not the only one proud of her accomplishments.

Kmart GM Jarrett Chytka greets Jazzlyn at the airport

Returning from Chicago, where the final leg of the competition was held , Pasion-Saflor was stunned by a large group of coworkers, friends and family who greeted her at the airport with an explosion of aloha.

“All of us are so proud of her,” says Kmart’s unit and pricing manager Shane Ishii. “We’re all family. We all help each other out.”

“It’s just phenomenal,” says Kaua’i County Councilman Mel Rapozo, when asked what he thought of Pasion-Saflor’s national championship. He also was among the group welcoming Pasion-Saflor home from the competition, where she beat thousands of Kmart’s top employees from around the nation.

“That’s what separates Kaua’i from the rest of the world,” says Rapozo, in regard to the crowd that delivered the warm reception.

Based on her solid performance as a cashier, Pasion-Saflor was originally chosen to enter the contest by Kmart’s store manager Jarrett Chytka.

Jazzlyn Pasion-Saflor was stunned by the crowd that greeted her at the airport after her national win. Coco Zickos photos

“We have several customers who acknowledge several associates throughout the store and, of course, Jazzlyn was one of them,” he says. “It was a tough decision because we have so many great associates. But they only wanted the best.”

After being selected as the store’s top cashier, Pasion-Saflor won a $25 gift certificate by defeating seven other store winners from across the Islands. In order to win the state championship, the Waimea resident had to successfully execute a transaction for a hypothetical customer, remembering to go over Kmart’s benefits such as the reward card and product protection plan.

“And you always thank the customers,” says PasionSaflor, who also won the 2008 Youth of the Year award from the Boys and Girls Club for her volunteer efforts with the organization.

During the second stage of the state competition, Pasion-Saflor had to correctly identify Kmart’s layaway products.

“I pretty much aced that one, and that’s why I won,” she says.

Jazzlyn in the Kmart electronics department

The final stage of the district competition consisted of a written exam that lasted roughly 20 minutes.

Following the victory, the 2009 Waimea High School graduate traveled to the Mainland for the first time in her life to compete in the regionals against 10 master cashiers from California and one from Oregon.

“I never thought I’d go to the Mainland,” says Pasion-Saflor, who is expecting her first child in January. “That’s the most rewarding part. It’s not about competing, it’s actually flying on the plane and viewing other places I never got to go.”

A free trip to Disneyland upped her spirits even more.

“I went on some safe rides, watched fireworks, ate a lot of food and took a lot of pictures,” she says.

And the excursion was much needed after a tough competition.

It looked like graduation day at the airport

The first stage of the West Coast contest included another written quiz. Other stages involved testing her knowledge on Kmart and Sears’ social media website, Pebble, and a 10-minute interview with a regional director regarding the benefits of a Sears credit card.

Even though competition was stiff, Pasion-Saflor was the regional winner, whose next step was to enter the national contest in Chicago. Before arriving in the Windy City, the former Miss Kaua’i Filipina Scholarship Pageant contestant won a $200 gift certificate and received a golden trophy in recognition of her efforts thus far.

But Pasion-Saflor never lost her calm, even during that final journey to Chicago.

“Along the way, I felt confident. I just knew that it was my job, repeating a day’s work,” she says.

And this time she was up against 11 other regional winners.

The only hurdle PasionSaflor faced was answering two questions posed by separate judges.

Showing off her ‘Ultimate’ skills with Kmart employees Jay and Shane Ishii

“They only give you 10 minutes to answer, but I went over,” says PasionSaflor, the daughter of Lorene Texeira and Leondro Pasion.

The question she remembers most vividly was regarding the value customers get when shopping with a rewards card and how cashiers impact Kmart by sharing these benefits.

Apparently, Pasion-Saflor had the best answer because it was the ticket that launched her into the role of Kmart’s Ultimate Cashier.

She won another gift certificate worth $1,000 and was granted a paid day off. But her most memorable experience in Chicago was when the Chicago Bears’ drummers greeted the regional winners at the Bloomingdale Kmart prior to the competition.

There are 13,000 Kmart stores in the United States located within 12 regions. Approximately 11,000 individuals were eligible for the competition per region, totaling more than 130,000 cashiers. Some 7,200 were selected at the store level to participate.

The fearless young lady was hired as a Kmart cashier at the age of 18. Within two weeks, she was already climbing the ranks to the electronics department.

Trophies, certificates -- Jazzlyn made quite a haul. Coco Zickos photos

And she’ll never let a customer pass her by without offering assistance.

“You might as well tell them what’s going on,” she says regarding Kmart’s abundant consumer benefits. “When everyone says, ‘No,’ I let them know what they’re missing out on.”

Pasion-Saflor admits she’s never talked so much in her life.

“You’ve got to know how to talk to people and when to stop talking,” she says.

Though her job doesn’t leave much time for hobbies, Pasion-Saflor is currently earning an associate degree at Kaua’i Community College. She hopes to open her own business one day.

“I just go day by day,” she says.

And today, she is a national winner.

“This is a success for everybody,” says Chytka. “And it was all up to Jazzlyn to make it happen.”