Darien’s DECA Club gears up for state competition

Students from Darien High School’s DECA Club: Vincent Xu, Ethan Zhang, Emma Blanke and Maya Nalawade

Sixty-five students in Darien High School’s DECA Club are putting the finishing touches on their business plans, ideas, and research.

They’ll be presenting all of those, and more, on March 5 when they compete against 40 other DECA Clubs at the Connecticut State Competition at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.

The students have been preparing since the beginning of the school year to compete in this event, according to Claudia Gray, a business education teacher at Darien High School, and DECA program adviser.

DECA, which stands for Distributive Education Clubs of America, is an international, nonprofit, student-led business competition club in the areas of finance, marketing, business management and administration, entrepreneurship, and hospitality and tourism.

“This is a very self directed, self motivated club,” Gray said. “You have to be self motivated to learn.”

DECA began after World War II as a vocational club for people returning from the war, and it has evolved into a business competition club with over 215,000 members at the high school and college levels.

This is the fifth year that Darien High School has had a DECA Club. Meetings are held every Wednesday, both before and after school. There are more than 100 members in the club.

Meetings

During their weekly meetings at the high school, students take practice tests.

“We give everyone a test booklet to study based upon their interests,” Gray said.

Sometimes, students create presentations or reports that have to do with a particular topic. Other times, they team up to role play hypothetical situations.

Prior to the competition, students are required to take an online exam.

“The test is half your total points. You compete in the competition to get the other half of your points,” said DHS senior Nicholas Teitler, 17, who is co-president of DECA.

Competition

At the Connecticut State Competition, “We get together with all the DECA chapters in Connecticut,” Gray said. “It is a full day competition.”

Students can participate in an event either individually, with a partner, or in a team of three,” Gray added.

They get 10 minutes to prepare for each role play.

Nick, who plans to major in finance, is competing in an event called Financial Consulting.

“I have to make a financial plan for someone who makes $40,000 a year,” he said.

DHS senior Alexandra Fitzpatrick, 18, who is co-president and fundraising coordinator for DECA, is competing in the Integrated Marketing Campaign event.

“This involves creating a promotional plan for a charity event,” said Alexandra, who plans to major in marketing. “I’m planning on a fair for children with special needs.”

Volunteer judges from all over Connecticut evaluate the students.

“Darien High School has placed every year since we started,” Gray said.

Last year, 24 students placed in their event. They competed in Nashville, Tenn., for five days.

As part of the competition, students role play. Last year, Nick role played in the area of human resources management.

“One of my role plays was about a store that offers in-store credit cards. The CEO wanted to know how the stores can get more people to apply for the credit cards,” Nick said. “I recommended incentives for the company to get more, such as exclusive events for cardholder members.”

Alexandra said her role playing in last year’s competition involved buying and merchandizing.

“I was on a team with a partner,” Alexandra said. “We studied by looking at different companies.”

At the state competition if students score in the top three schools, they earn a place at the international DECA competition. Last year, eight students qualified, and competed in this competition, which was held in Georgia. This year, the international competition is in Orlando, Fla., in April.

Fundraising

To raise money to be able to travel to the competitions, the students fundraise year-round.

“We sold boxes of vacation cards and gift cards, and had a bake sale,”Alexandra said.

Money raised from the fundraisers goes toward registration, hotel accommodations and transportation.

Gray said that one of the reasons the students are successful in DECA is due to their parents, who are “great role models involved in business, finance and various charities.”

Alexandra’s father is in the finance field, and she wants to “follow in his footsteps,” she said.

“I like getting in the opportunity to be in role play situations. It helps you for job interviews,” she added.

Alexandra joined DECA because she “wanted to do something academically based, to challenge myself,” she said. “It’s good to push yourself out of the box.”

sfox@darientimes.com