DHS DECA: Road to Internationals

The road to DECA International Career Development Conference began at the beginning of the school year for DECA students. Every lesson learned, community service project completed and mock business proposal polished goes into their competitions at the state and international level.

“There is a lot of prep work that goes into it. Throughout the school year they learn different aspects of marketing and entrepreneurship,” said Courtney Kerby, DECA advisor.

Competitions for DECA students can be broken down into two broad categories: written and role-play.

Written competitions consist of 30-page papers and 15-minute presentations that are perfected and polished over the course of the school year.

Papers are on a variety of things. DECA students wrote papers on independent business plans, start-up business plans, business services operations research and various community service projects such as their after-school entrepreneurship program with middle-schoolers.

“All of them did a fantastic job. They had good remarks from their judges, and they were very very impressive,” Kerby said.

On the opposite side of the competition spectrum are the role-play competitions. Students are given just 10 minutes to prepare a marketing strategy based on the standards and situation given to them by the judges. Then they have 10 minutes to present their case, with questions from the judges immediately afterward.

Kerby said that the judges of the role-play competitions actually work in the specific area that the role-play is set in, so questions are detailed and specific.

“They deal with this on a daily basis, and they know exactly how their business would respond,”

After leaving DECA State CDC with 21 trophies and nine certificates, DECA students met with a communications and public speaking professional at “Champ Camp” in Montgomery to further refine their crafts and hone their skills.

Students gave their presentations to him, and he offered critiques.

“They have learned to make their presentations more effective and tell a story. It’s all about having your judges being able to relate to what it is you’re doing,”

Everyone who placed at State has taken the judges’ comments to heart to perfect their papers or role-play skills even more.

Kerby said that when the students aren’t competing at the conferences, they’re learning skills, gaining confidence and making connections at companies they may work at one day.

“It gives them real life experience. [It’s] a little sample of what it would be like to be in a marketing profession. You have to go and have people skills and communicate directly to somebody you’ve never met in your entire life.”

At State, the students were also honored for their successful coat drive back in December, which saw 303 coats and $225 donated.

At Internationals, the students competed against 20,000 DECA students from all over the world. They may not have come home with any trophies, but Kerby said they gained something much more valuable.

“Our students gained valuable experience networking with professionals and students from around the country and world.  While our students did not get called on stage, they had a great time and set goals to achieve next year.”

Kerby took 28 students to State in Birmingham on February 21 and 22 and 17 students to Internationals in Atlanta on April 21-24.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, April 28 issue of the Demopolis Times.)