Three teams of two moved on to the International Competition after earning top marks in their categories at the state meet in February, seniors Hannah Simpson and Oliver Bowles, freshmen Colby Padgett and Raina Leom, and seniors Callie Miller and Kasey Kleiber. This will be Hannah’s second trip to the international competition.
Oliver said he learned two things overall. “The biggest enemy in life is yourself, and that you never really know someone until you get to know them like this.”
“You can do whatever you set your mind to,” said Callie.
“I agree – 100 percent,” added Kasey.
Students joined DECA and the competition for various reasons, from being persuaded by DECA sponsor Mr. Stewart Burns, to wanting to learn more about the business world.
“I was homeschooled,” said Raina. “I knew I wanted to be a business major and would need this.”
Kasey and Callie “practically grew up together” and had the task of getting adults to trust them with their personal feelings regarding their work environment. This level of comfort with each other helped them with their project.
Kasey also said that her confidence levels have risen.
“Being able to talk to people – that’s good for the future.”
Getting ready for competition takes time and dedication.
“We were literally with each other for months,” said Hannah, regarding working with her partner. “Anytime one of us had free time included countless hours working on our paper, giving speeches, meeting with anyone Mr. Burns set us up with to speak.”
“Eat DECA, sleep DECA,” agreed Oliver.
Each student expressed their amazement and overwhelming feeling of winning such a prestigious competition with and against their peers, calling the experience “nerve-wracking” and “incredible.”
The students were also a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of students competing.
“Some schools have so many kids in their chapter,” said Colby.
“We were definitely tiny,” said Kasey.
Teaching and working with DECA students for 19 years, Mr. Burns says that every group has a different “personality” and a comradery that’s not found in most academic competitions. He also says he recruits based on quality, not quantity. “This has a value; this has a place,” he said.
This school year started with 16 students in completion and 10 moving to state. Three out of the five projects advanced to Internationals.
“Every year is a new challenge and a new group,” said Mr. Burns. “I’m proud of them, but we’re not done. There is a lot of talent sitting here, and I have very high expectations for them when we go to Nashville.”
“I’ll shake their hand when it’s over,” he added. “I’ll dab when they win it.”
The DECA website states DECA, almost 70 years old, prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe, and is organized into two unique student divisions each with programs designed to address the learning styles, interest and focus of its members.
The High School Division includes 200,000 members in 3,500 schools. The Collegiate Division includes over 15,000 members in 275 colleges and universities. DECA Inc. has 215,000 members in all 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Canada, China, Germany, Guam, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain. The United States Congress, the United States Department of Education and state, district and international departments of education authorize DECA’s programs.
To compete at the high school level, DECA students choose a topic to research, write a paper and present it to judges at competition. Top scorers move from district, to state, to international competition each year.