DECA is decking students for their future

  • Written by David B. Clark

DECA is an organization all about preparing young people to be dynamic, thoughtful, innovative leaders in the business community. Since DECA first formed in 1946, it has impacted more than ten million students and teachers all over the world. The program itself fosters talented young business-minded people who are looking not just to hawk their wares; but cultivate their intellects.

The high school division of DECA includes 3,500 schools and over 200,000 students. While DECA education and involvement will differ from school to school, Woodinville High School has had marketing educator Paul Glenovich teaching in their classroom for over two decades. Glenovich, referred to by many of his students as “Gleno”, explained how students have tremendously enriching experiences through DECA’s competitive events. These competitions are industry-validated and align with the National Curriculum Standards in career categories like marketing, business management and administration, finance, and hospitality and tourism. Typically, these consist of a written portion and an interactive piece with a judge. This year, the national contest was held in Florida. Two WHS students, Chloe Jackson and Carolina Leon-Nogales, both received top honors in their categories. Jackson, who is a Senior at WHS, plans on being an engineer but says DECA has inspired her to continue studying business and marketing in college. “I learned that I really like giving intimate presentations and problem-solving real-world problems, although I experienced them in a staged environment!” she said. She added that she would highly suggest anyone considering getting involved in DECA to do it. “DECA has been the best experience of my entire high school time, and it is the same story for all students, no matter their success. Also, having Glenovich as a teacher is an opportunity you cannot pass up,” she said. Since 2003, Woodinville High School has consistently performed in the top five of the 35,000 schools in competition.

In lieu of embracing the years of success as his own, Glenovich is entirely selfless. “There is very strong community involvement with DECA here at WHS,” he said. He explained how many of the community members first became involved because they were parents of students that had loved the program. “We have community members that have been participating for 15-plus years,” said Glenovich. He then went on to share how fulfilling DECA had been with previous students who have graduated, gone to college, and are now in the midst of successful careers. It was clear that these young professionals were eager to come back and positively affect the kids competing in DECA because it had been so amazing very them. Glenovich said, “We have a really strong alumni… They are really the backbone of our success.”

Melissa Figel, a WHS 2005 graduate, DECA alum, and volunteer judge and coach loves the program and how its continued to push her creatively. She said, “The vast amount of possible career paths can feel overwhelming to a high school student and I cite DECA as a valuable resource that helped guide me to an industry I am interested in. I hope that my involvement helps illuminate opportunities for current students in the same way. I recognize that I was very privileged to have mentors and resources who supported me on my DECA journey, and I feel responsible for sharing that privilege with others that follow me.”

Jordan McKerney (Howlett) is another WHS 2005 graduate. Placing in the top 10 in DECA all 3 years at WHS; including a 1st place finish in advertising campaign, makes it so McKerney knows the importance—and the nerves—that come with a young person putting themselves in a professional sphere for the first time. That message? The community needs to take these young people seriously, “… I think for many participants, DECA competition is the first time they’ve sat across the table from a member of the business community who is ready to shake their hand, look them in the eye and listen to their ideas. And just that experience itself is so valuable. It means that when those students walk into their first college presentation or job interview, they are going to be that much more experienced and confident. I think the “working world” can feel a bit mysterious to students, and we all have valuable insights, opportunities and connections that we can share to help guide them.

Community member Dennis Gau had two of his kids go through DECA over a decade ago. After being around Glenovich a little bit and seeing his style and the program, he was sold on DECA and convinced he could offer something. Gau said, “With the proliferation of social media, face-to-face dialogue is not always practiced or available and I think kids need to know how to dress appropriately, make eye-contact, offer a firm handshake, and speak confidently.”

Rotary member Carol Lee thinks the community needs to step it up and help these kids reach their goals. She thinks more engagement can prepare kids to be more successful in college and thinks the next generation can learn a lot from people acting as mentors. Her words urged to action when she said, “Volunteer to help with career building programs, be a guest speaker, sign up to be a volunteer DECA judge or engage in mock interviews, join or support local non-profits such as Woodinville Rotary, the Scholarship Foundation of Northshore or the Northshore Schools Foundation. There are many ways to engage. After all, sharing wisdom and resources with young entrepreneurs, businesspeople and students will go a long way in strengthening our local economy and building stronger communities overall.”

Marketing Advisory Committee Member Mary Daniel thinks the same. “The community can support these students and young entrepreneurs by encouraging other students to participate in the DECA program, they can volunteer to coach the students, judge DECA events, and perhaps welcome the students into a business situation where the students can gain additional practical experiences with using their DECA skills.”

With all their mentors inspiring words, the students’ successes still speak for themselves. Senior Julia Tarnu said, “Creating prepared business plans and campaigns over the years has given me a more in-depth perspective of the business world and how it works, which has allowed me to realize that business is what I want to pursue after high school.”

Senior Mason McCafferty said, “After taking part in DECA and the marketing courses at Woodinville High School, I realized my interest for business and the creativity I am able to express through projects or presentations. It inspired me to take additional business courses, research jobs in the industry, and receive admission into the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.”

Senior Ashley Snedaker said, “…relationships you’ll form through DECA are invaluable and will really benefit you in so many ways that you might not even immediately see.”

Glenovich says his goal is to prepare every student to be the best marketer of the most important product or service; themselves. He finished, “I want these experiences to catapult them into a successful job interview.”

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