DECA travels to Orlando nationals

Seniors from left to right Megan Gunderson, Emma Sahinovic, Ashley Schildroth and Emily Hayes traveled to Orlando, Fla. for the national DECA conference.

Snowed in at a hotel for the State competition in Des Moines, the Distributive Education Club of America (DECA) didn’t think that they would have a chance to qualify for the national conference. 

“We were stuck in Des Moines for two days because we were told that the competition would go on no matter what, so our kids would have to be there,” DECA adviser Mark Aalderks 

said. “We went down a day early and stayed in a hotel. Then, the event got cancelled, and we couldn’t get home because of the snowstorm. We ended up recording all of our roleplays and sending them in to the judges,” he said. 

DECA moved on from the State competition and from April 27-30 four seniors out of the 12 members of DECA traveled to Orlando, Fla., for the International Career Development Conference. Every year, 3,500 high school chapters of DECA meet at this conference. 

The team prepared before the competition to make sure their role play business situations were ready for the judges. In DECA, multiple categories of the individual competition are included, but Cedar Falls focuses on the business aspects of it and conducts role plays and take test. Senior Megan Gunderson participated in group events. “In DECA you can also participate in team events, so joining with a friend can make your experience really fun,” Gunderson said. The role plays and tests include interviews and discussions with judges in a specific time limit in their specific area of interest like personal finance and entrepreneurship. 

“They really just study for a particular area of interest and compete in that,” Aalderks said. “When we get into Districts, we meet one or two times. Districts is a competitive thing where you can win things, but everyone advances to the state competition,” he said.  

Senior Emily Hayes has been a part of DECA for two years and traveled to the national conference both years she participated. “It’s important because these are skills we need in the real world and aren’t always offered inside a classroom setting. We also get the opportunity to network with other participants as well as colleges and employers. It’s a unique combination that results in cool connections,” she said. 

At the national conference, the DECA members performed their business role plays and have yet to hear the results from the competition in upcoming weeks.  

“We really don’t know the results yet because there were so many people. There are 22,000 kids there competing in each particular area. In our event we probably had 170-some that took a test and did role plays. What they really do is go through all of the data and see who the top 20 is, and then we see if any of them are the top three.” Aalderks said. “We never really get to see comments or ranks. That is the bad part of it, but a lot of the time, it is part of the experience of going to Orlando.”

Aalderks stressed the importance of DECA that helps students improve their conversation and entrepreneur skills. “DECA helps to build communications and professional skills. It also helps to build networking skills. The great part of it is you get to meet people who are interested in the same things that you are even at the district and state levels. You may meet someone at Nationals from Kentucky and connect through social media in the future,” he said. 

With knowing what her career will be in the future, Hayes has gained a lot from her experience in DECA at Cedar Falls.   “I learned what I want to do with my life, how to effectively communicate, how to problem solve and how to be a better learner. I met friends every year that I still follow and still keep in contact with. It’s a unique opportunity that isn’t talked about as much as it should be in Cedar Falls,” Hayes said.

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