DECA members earn top honors at State

By: Sommer Danielsen

After a one year break, the business organization DECA found new leadership and has completed its season.  On Feb. 28-29, 12 students traveled to the DECA state competition in Des Moines where their business skills were put to the test. From those 12, three students qualified for the national competition in Nashville.

Students competed by completing multiple tasks. First, students took a 100-point, multiple choice test. After, they were presented with a roleplay situation where they had 10 minutes to construct a practical solution to a business problem, either alone or with their partner, then presented it to judges. Some categories required students to do more than one roleplay or present an original business plan. Tests, roleplays and business planning span many categories including principles of finance, automotive services, fast food, hospitality and tourism, and more.  Those who place first, second and third at state competition qualify for Nationals.

Business teacher Mark Aalderks has been working with students since the fall to prepare for state competition. With 12 years of experience in the DECA organization, Aalderks has served as a judge, as well as an adviser for Southeast Polk before relocating to Cedar Falls. Aalderks shows much enthusiasm for future growth of the DECA organization in Cedar Falls. “DECA is for kids who want to go into business and is a great opportunity for them to explore the things they want to do,” he said.

Aalderks met with DECA students once a week during power hour and provided practice tests similar to what students saw at state competition. At the start of the year, students attended a leadership conference where they explored the topics within DECA, learning more about business and the format of competitions later in the year.

By late January, DECA members headed to Districts. Iowa is divided into three districts, each of which hosted its own competition. Cedar Falls students headed to Wartburg College where they competed in the same format as State. Districts also gave students an opportunity to network with other DECA members from across the state. After competing during the day, night time activities commenced, including giant Jenga, hypnotisms and a dance party.

Juniors Allison Eagan and Izzie Armstrong competed as a team this year in the category of Tourism and Hospitality. Placing second out of 21 teams at the state competition, their performance earned them a spot at Nationals.

Eagan was excited to speak about the events in DECA, assuring her partner she could take the first question, just like she would at a competition. “I don’t even want to go into business, but I do like the management aspect of it and how you’re given a situation and you have to determine a solution under pressure,” Eagan said.

Armstrong was quick to chime in, agreeing with Eagan. “The stuff you’re studying is going to make it so when you walk into a business you know important things. You’ll realize ‘this is why’ about all the things you’ve studied,” Armstrong said.

DECA members said it is a lot of fun for those who participate through learning, but also through meeting kids from all over Iowa with similar interests.  “It really is a fun thing to do. You will compete hard during the day, and then you go back to the hotel and they have a hypnotist for you. And that’s called networking, “ Armstrong said.

Sophomore Katia Haugstad also qualified for Nationals. Her opinion of DECA echos that of the rest of her team. “Competing at state DECA was definitely one of the highlights of my year. Being involved in DECA gave me the opportunity to learn more about the business world, and, in my case, delve further into the fields of hospitality and tourism. Qualifying for Nationals was certainly an honor, and I can’t wait to compete next year,” Haugstad said.

Receiving fourth place, sophomore Hemal Patel was also offered an opportunity to compete at Nationals this year after one of the top three competitors declined an invitation.  Unfortunately, this year’s national competition falls on April 23, the same day as prom, making it hard for qualifiers to attend. Aalderks was disappointed in the conflict of schedule but said he hopes to protect the date for next year’s competition by planning far in advance and working with school administration. Next year’s state competition location has already been revealed to be Anaheim, Calif., giving returning members motivation to achieve the same level of excellence they did this year.

The program comes highly recommended from this year’s participants. “It’s just a fun environment. Even though competition is very prestigious and taken seriously, it’s not too much pressure. We still like it because it’s fun,” Eagan said.

Next fall, DECA will meet once again to start a new season. DECA is open to all students at the high school. Those interested should look for DECA at next year’s activity fair and keep up with announcements released by the business department.

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