By Tali Haller
With over 200,000 members and 3,500 participating schools, DECA is an internationally recognized student organization designed to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management, according to the DECA mission statement. It is a co-curricular program that allows students to apply classroom instruction to real-world business simulations through role plays and projects.
While only a small percentage of DECA nationally, the Olympia High School DECA chapter, which averages around 135 members per year, continually produces students who qualify for the national and international competitions. One such student is junior Brooklyn Hooper, co-chapter president of the OHS DECA Club.
While Hooper’s own interests are very business-oriented, she recognizes the many ways that DECA can contribute to someone’s character and shape their career path. “DECA gives students so many applicable skills they can use post-high school and post-college,” said Hooper. “A student may think, ‘I’m not going into business so DECA isn’t for me!’ but it can help you no matter what you do, providing communication and leadership skills, teaching time management, responsibility, confidence, and providing a network of other motivated students.”
Currently, Hooper competes in an event called Human Resource Management, which aims to teach students how to provide the best workplace environment. “It’s all about staff, teamwork, and creating a successful business plan,” she explained. Although competitive events vary, most, like the event Hooper does, involve a role play. Students are given a problem and must use prior knowledge and skill to create a mini-presentation on how to solve it, which they then deliver to a panel of professional adults. The scores they receive from their presentations are combined with a score from a written test to determine who qualifies to continue competing.
Hooper became involved with DECA her freshman year in high school because of her dad. “I was a little scared at first but he kept pushing me,” she remembers. Being talkative and energetic helped her succeed. Right away, in her freshman year, Hooper went to a leadership conference that turned out to be one of the best experiences of her life. “The sessions were huge, the competitions were huge. There were just so, so many people and it felt amazing to be part of something so grand,” laughs Hooper. As a sophomore, she did a project on fashion merchandising and ran for Secretary. Continually advancing, as a junior she is now one of the co-Presidents, alongside senior Lily Marra. (See how Lily is putting her fashion skills and business savvy to use as a blogger for Nordstroms BP Department).
“Brooklyn works extremely hard, she studies hards, and she competes very well,” said Dave Eby, the head of the Marketing Education Department. As a top qualifier at state, Hooper has earned herself a trip to Atlanta, Georgia for the International Career Development Conference in early May. Thinking further, Hooper sees business in her future. “At this point, I have my eye on Gonzaga’s business program, which is internationally recognized and just incredible,” she said.
Another amazing competitor, senior Allison Foster also recently qualified to compete in the Accounting Applications Event at the upcoming conference. Similar to Hooper, Foster has always been interested in business. Yet although she took an introductory marketing course her freshman year, she didn’t become actively involved in DECA until her sophomore year. At her first competition, Foster won first place at districts. Going on to state, she finished in the top 15, a great accomplishment but a bit shy of qualifying for nationals. However, as Foster headed into the competition her junior year, she then had a full year of a high school accounting class under her belt. Once again, Foster placed first at districts. Then, she placed sixth at state, qualifying for nationals, where she ended placing 16th out of the approximately 18,000 members who are in accounting. Throughout the competition, Foster used the skills she’d learned in her accounting classes, doing basic journal entries and connecting those to financial statements.
Coming into the competition this year, Foster is armed with an even stronger set of skills. Over the past year, she has been working in the Appeals Apartment of the Department of Revenue, gaining general business knowledge as she scans appeals into two different databases. She is also the current Associated Student Body (ASB) Treasurer and the DECA Treasurer. As the ASB Treasurer, Foster manages the one million dollar cash flow that comes through the school’s budget annually, signing off on all invoices and purchases orders.
Continuing the pattern, Foster placed first at Districts, qualified at state, and is now on, once again, to compete at the international conference. On the verge of graduation, Foster has a well-thought-out plan for her future. She plans to major in accounting at Gonzaga University this fall. “I got an extremely generous business scholarship for $10,000 per year over four years,” she said with excitement.
Aside from the financial aid, Gonzaga attracted Foster because of its versatility, medium class size and its internationally accredited business school. “They also have great study abroad programs – even another whole Gonzaga campus in Florence, Italy,” explained Foster, who admits that one may find her crunching numbers on the pristine Italian beaches during her junior or senior year. Her current aim is to pass her Certified Public Accounting Exam and find an introductory accounting position at one of the big firms in Seattle. “I’ve always been drawn to accounting. It’s a great pathway into the business world,” Foster stated.
Joining Hooper and Foster in the upcoming conference is junior Gabi Capestany, competing in an Entrepreneurship event, and three other students who are representing the DECA student store in the School-Based Enterprise event. “The student store is a learning lab where we apply principles learned in a marketing class. It’s open during lunch and the money proceeds actually go into DECA, which is where our travel money comes from,” explained Eby. Students must have completed marketing and advanced marketing in order to take the student store course, which acts as a culmination of all they have learned.
Aside from competitions, the DECA chapter stays active through field trips and community service activities. They volunteer at the annual OHS Bearzaar, help out at the blood drive, and served over 75 people dinner at a retirement home in Tumwater. “My favorite thing about DECA is to be able to see students grow from their freshman year to their senior year, acquiring the skills and beliefs that will help them succeed,” stated Eby.