Four students advance to DECA Nationals

Kimi Du, Hunter Peterson, Jack Plagge,Galen O’Brien-Carlstein, Joey Kliewer, Zayn Abbas, TJ Tomlyanovich competed in Des Moines at the state DECA competition last weekend.

Seven students led by business teacher Mike Hansel competed at the state DECA competition in Des Moines this weekend, and four of those students advanced to the National competition in Nashville. These students are Kimi Du, Hunter Peterson, TJ Tomlyanovich and Jack Plagge. 

 DECA is a business club with groups all over the nation, and even into Canada, and teaches students valuable lessons in business and teamwork. 

At competitions, students compete as either individuals or partners, and face a series of challenges. Competitions typically consist of both a multiple choice test and role play situation where they must solve a business problem. They could also involve prep work beforehand, like papers or written business propositions. Students can choose to compete in six different categories: hospitality and tourism, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, business management and administration, and personal finance literacy. 

Every DECA student is allowed to participate in Districts, which serves as a kind of practice round, and they then automatically move on to State. However, only those who rank first, second or third in their category can advance from State to Nationals. 

This year’s DECA season has been a bit of a wild card compared to past years however. First, intense snowstorms in January led to the Districts competition in Waverly being cancelled. Districts usually serve as an important opportunity for DECA members to try out their skills in a low risk environment.

“Everyone gets to do Districts, like a practice round” Hansel said, “but it’s more of a practice, lower stakes. It’s just like what State is but just on a smaller level because there’s five or six schools there instead of twenty some.” 

But without Districts, students were left to compete at State without that practice under their belts. Even experienced DECA members like senior Hunter Peterson felt jitters during the competition. “I was nervous and excited,” Peterson said. However, he said he could find some solace in his teammate, Du. “Working on a team was great since it allowed collaboration.”

Another difference in this DECA season is their leadership. Hansel is leading DECA for the first time, replacing previous director Mark Aalderks. 

“It’s been an interesting first year experience. Students will ask me questions about State and Nationals, and all I can say is, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never been there,’” Hansel laughs. 

With first experiences for directors and students alike, Hansel said that “It’s been a learning process for everybody.”

Regardless, Hansel dove headfirst into the responsibility, busily preparing students for competition since the fall. He noted, however, that a lot of the work is self directed by the students themselves. This allows students to learn skills like taking initiative and self direction. Both Hansel and Peterson also cited communication as one of the most important skills learned through DECA. Students must be able to precisely convey their ideas to both their teammates and to a panel of judges. 

On top of that, Hansel said DECA also challenges students to learn how to “present and talk about your idea to someone you’ve never met before. That can be pretty scary.” 

Above all, both Hansel and Peterson echo the idea that DECA is all about having fun. Peterson encouraged students to “go out, try an event or two, and have a great time,” while Hansel looked forward to Nationals. “I think it’s going to be a fun and exciting trip to Nashville.”

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