DECA districts were in January and 223 students from RHS participated, out of which 57 qualified to advance to the state-wide competition. The district competition, held at Ramapo College in Mahwah, involved a field of 2,000 North Jersey competitors.
Each individual/pair had to role-play in front of a judge based on a scenario they were given 10-30 minutes before presenting. The three highest-scoring students on both role-plays and qualification tests received awards. The top 15 students for solo events and top 10 for partner role-plays will advance to the statewide competition in March: a multi-day State Career Development Conference at Harrah’s Atlantic City resort.
Competitors at Districts were judged on their speaking ability, confidence, and knowledge, as well as improvisation, in the various areas of competition. Competitive events fall into six different career clusters: Business Management & Administration, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Finance, Hospitality & Tourism, and Personal Financial Literacy.
DECA promises to prepare “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.” The aim of the organization is to help students advance their skills in business and networking, preparing them for successful careers in the corporate sector. Vice President of NJ DECA and RHS senior Alex Ruhl explains: “Through DECA, I have developed my presentation and creative thinking skills which will be extremely valuable later on in life.”
DECA requires students to adhere to a strict dress code for all events. After all, DECA is a simulation not of the average office job, but of the top-most tier of the corporate world. Students don’t role-play as a day-to-day white collar worker or a middle manager, but as a general manager of a large institution or the vice president of marketing at a sizeable firm. Only the crispest suits, skirts, and jackets are allowed while competing—no polos, open back tops, or boat shoes.
The events at districts were broken down into separate time slots, and to ease overcrowding, they ran throughout the whole morning and mid-afternoon. Because of the sheer amount of participants in certain events, it was exponentially more difficult to make it past the first round of competition. Ruhl shares that “Districts this year was more difficult than usual because we faced tougher competition; however, many chapter members succeeded and we hope to bring around 115 people to states.”
Many competitors were nervous, but others retained a cool and confident mindset, ideal for the business world. Allison Hong, a sophomore at Ridgewood, really “enjoyed it, [and it was] a little stressful as expected, but [she’s competed] before.” Once the judges were ready, students were called into the presentation rooms to start their pitches.
For students that did not make it to states on their role-play or did not enter a role-play competition, there are other ways to compete in Atlantic City. One option is to write a paper—and because papers are not presented at Districts—they are a guaranteed ticket to SCDC. For example, students may choose to write an IBP or International Business Plan, researching an issue from across the globe and then proposing a solution—the business surrounding this solution being the focal point of the paper. Students present their papers as part of a standalone competition at states, where judges evaluate competitors based on the quality of the presentation, the paper itself, and the depth of research and ingenuity of the proposal.
Those who did not make it past Districts and did not originally plan to write a paper were given a last minute chance to attend SCDC by writing ten pages about entrepreneurship. Students were encouraged to do this so that even if they did not advance in their role-play, they could still have the states experience for their future in DECA. Furthermore, if their paper is exceptional, there is even a chance students will advance beyond Atlantic City.
Moving on from Districts, the New Jersey state-wide competition later this year takes these same challenges and applies them at a higher level. Students who advanced have the opportunity to acquire additional accolades and move on to an even bigger stage: International Career Development Conference to be held in Orlando, Florida.
Logan Richman and Aaron Friedman
Graphic: Sofia Lee