Woodinville High School excelled yet again at this year’s DECA International Career Development Conference, known as the ICDC, on April 26-29 in Anaheim.
DECA is a program that helps train high school and college students in areas such as marketing, business management, finance and hospitality.
Thirty-three Woodinville students competed against 18,000 others at the 2017 ICDC. According to Paul Glenovich, Woodinville’s marketing teacher, the school finished with the second-most winners and top-ten finishers in the competition.
“The students were elated,” Glenovich said. “Out of the 33 that participated, seventeen of those went on to the final round. Fifteen of them were in the top ten. They did very, very well.”
Three of Glenovich’s students, Ben Vandehey, Colton Van Til and Thomas Perry, placed first in their events at the ICDC both this year and last year.
“That is a remarkable achievement,” Glenovich said. “That has not happened at Woodinville High School.”
At each DECA competition, students compete in one of about 57 different events. During each event’s competition, students are given role-play scenarios relating to their chosen event. They must come up with a plan that fits the given scenario within an allotted time and then present that plan to a panel of judges.
This year, Vandehey competed on a two-person team with Woodinville senior Natalie Mifsud in the Buying and Merchandising Team Decision Making event.
During the final round of the competition, the pair was tasked with presenting their opinion on whether or not a dollar store chain should add a five-dollar line of kitchen appliances.
“It required us to combine branding and economics, as well as our presentation skills from the last three years in DECA, to create a role play that would impress the judges,” Vandehey said.
Vandehey and Mifsud have been close friends since second grade, and both said they enjoyed working together as a DECA team throughout the year.
“Taking home a trophy at the end was just icing on the cake,” Mifsud said.
Tori Harding, another Woodinville first-place finisher, competed in Retail Merchandising.
The scenarios she presented on ranged from market research to toy store event planning to cross-merchandising the products of a jewelry store and a formal wear store.
“Depending on the scenario, I may be taking on the role of director of marketing, director of consumer engagement, general manager, or more. I find it really fun to completely embody these roles and pretend to be high-up members of large companies, even if it only lasts for ten minutes,” Harding said.
Preparation for DECA starts in the classroom, Glenovich said. He tries to provide his students with a general blueprint for how to be successful at competitions.
“From there, we have practices with alumni, with community members, that provide feedback on presentation and content and help refine the blueprint that is given,” he said. “The kids, they put their own personality into it as well.”
Of the community and alumni volunteers, Glenovich said they have been indispensable to the school’s DECA program. Some parents have continued helping out even though their own children graduated years ago.
The potential benefits of DECA extend beyond high school success. Students who participate in the program at any level, Glenovich said, will be better equipped for careers in the business world and in numerous other fields.
“They are going to feel confident about going into their interview and receiving the coveted words, ‘You got the job,’” he said.
It wasn’t until Harding joined DECA that she realized she had a passion for business.
“Without DECA, I don’t know if I ever would have even had the opportunity to explore this path as a high school student, let alone become so interested in it,” she said.
Vandehey and Mifsud also want to pursue careers in business. Both will go on to attend the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington this fall, and both credit DECA with helping to prepare them for life after Woodinville High.
“You learn so much more than simple business knowledge,” Mifsud said. “You gain confidence and presentation skills as well the ability to take criticism. If you are in a team, you learn how important teamwork and holding each other accountable can be. Not only do you learn all these things, but DECA is an absolute blast.”
While this season of DECA is now completed, Glenovich said some students are already thinking about the next ICDC, or what he called “the road to Atlanta.”
For more information about the ICDC and this year’s winners, visit deca.org.