In the learning of business DECA gives students a start

Jennifer Linden, left, and Holly Fairbrook, both juniors at South Whidbey High School, work on DECA projects in their Marketing Management class. - Jennifer Conway
Jennifer Linden, left, and Holly Fairbrook, both juniors at South Whidbey High School, work on DECA projects in their Marketing Management class.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

To get a jump in the business world, a group of South Whidbey High School students have already started working on their careers.

To make high school work for them before they go to work, South Whidbey High School's Distributive Education Clubs of America gives business-minded students an early background in marketing, management and entrepreneurship.

For Stephanie Duffy, a senior DECA member, said she didn't know what she would do in life after high school until she got interested in business.

"I didn't realize what I was good at until I had got in this class," said Duffy.

So what is DECA all about?

Aimed toward giving high school students experience with business interests like travel and tourism, hospitality, financial management, entrepreneurship, e-commerce and vehicle and petroleum merchandising, its members compete with DECA students at other schools during the year. The club meets once a month and has 21 female and two male members.

In competition, students are tested in career-related divisions with written and oral exams. According to Duffy, the written exams cover basic marketing fundamentals, terms, keywords and business etiquette. She said the oral exams vary according to the divisions. Students compete individually or with a partner.

Half of the students who are a DECA members are registered in the high school's Marketing Management class. Though one is part of the school curriculum and the other is a club, the two are so intertwined they cannot be separated.

Marketing Management teach-er Saryl Harliss is also the advisor to the DECA chapter at South Whidbey, so it is hardly surprising to catch club members working on both class assignments and DECA projects and requirements while in class.

In addition to competing, each DECA member is required to complete 10 community service hours during the school year though, according to Duffy, many members do double that.

The club also operates a student store, called Sweet Spot Cafe. Duffy is the store's general manager.

She said the position suits her because she thrives on being in charge and giving directions.

"I just enjoy being around people," Duffy said.

This month, the club is getting ready to compete at the March 6-8 state DECA meet. Eleven girls in the club will compete in the Meydenbauer Conference Center in Bellevue in one written and two oral tests.

In the hospitality division Duffy and her partner, Jodi Taylor, are preparing to work through a situation dealing with management-level hospitality services. At a recent competition, they were given a scenario relating to a specific hotel and they had to decide how they could attract more tourism.

Duffy said participants are given 30 minutes to prepare a marketing approach to their given situation. Judges -- who are actual business professionals -- critique students on their knowledge of the field and their prepared simulations.

Senior Valerie Mock, co-president of DECA, enjoys the competitions.

"Competition is fun," she said, then added, "If you win."

Mock, who competed recently in the travel and tourism division, said she enjoys marketing because it's like a game.

"You have to be able to think like your customer and understand them to get them to buy your product," said Mock.

There are several strategies to study for the competition, according to Mock. DECA members examine past role-play simulations, study key terms and take practice tests.

Taylor, who is also co-president of DECA, said the group has been busy raising money to pay for the trip to the state competition.

Their favorite fund raiser was a "Dating Game" competition earlier this year. It generated almost $400.

Taylor said that DECA is responsible for 100 percent of their expenses, including travel expenses for advisor Harliss.

Participants in the competitions are expected to dress professionally. Students should have close-toed shoes, nylons for girls, and button up or collared shirts. Taylor said low cut blouses are not allowed, and females should abide by the "five pieces of jewelry" rule.

The students don't find the dress code limiting. They know it, like DECA, is all business.

"It is a great jumpstart for anyone who is looking to enter a career in marketing," Mock said.

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