The other tourists were flummoxed by the sight of thousands of teenagers playing dress-up in blazers and high heels. For those wearing the just-a-size-too-tight shoes and this-is-my-dad’s-tie, it was routine. In fact, the whole academic year had been leading up to these few days, the International Career Development Conference run by DECA in Orlando, Florida.
At the conference, 17,000 students from around the world participate in events that focus on marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. These can range from presentations to tests or to role-plays. The conference also features a program called the Academy, where students who did not go to Internationals for their original papers or role-plays still have a chance to learn about the lessons DECA strives to teach. After the Regional and State competitions, 44 RHS students were able to attend ICDC, which was the largest Ridgewood High School group to ever attend Internationals.
Once in Orlando, the group was on its way down the palm-lined highway, en route to the place where dreams come true. Although the focus of the trip was the professional element, there was plenty of time for fun. The perk of the location this year is obvious– Disneyworld. It is impossible to visit Orlando without seeing Mickey and his friends gracing the side of a bus or a billboard, and the lure of the rides was too much for the DECA competitors to pass up. In between the competition students walked the World Showcase at Epcot, rode Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom, and went back in time at Hollywood Studios.
Additionally at Hollywood Studios, they participated in the Disney Youth Education Series. The assembly split in two, and one group went to an animation class, while the other attended a program called ¨Managing Your Brand¨, which focused on how individuals presents themselves to the world and how to manipulate their image to reflect themselves accurately.
Back at the conference, competition attendees went to Opening Ceremonies, where the atmosphere resembled that of a dance club, but the speeches were about the professional world. The juxtaposition was comical, but the keynote speaker, Mindy Grossman, the CEO of HSN Inc., handed out worthwhile advice to a crowd of nervous competitors.
The following days consisted of the main events and the intensity of waiting to hear about results. Somehow, there was also time for dips in the pool, many trips down the lazy river, and meetings around bonfires. But early mornings and emails from teachers were always there to remind students that this was, of course, not a vacation.
On the last morning, the RHS contingent gathered in the lobby, a group of bleary-eyed, sunburned kids in matching red t-shirts. Although the departure time was early, everyone was in high spirits, happily reflecting on the past few days. While no one from Ridgewood was carrying a trophy in their luggage, senior Nikhil Mendiratta did receive a silver medal for earning a top 10 test score in his event, Professional Selling, out of 140 students, and all of the participants returned with new experience in DECA competition and a renewed drive to reach the International Career Development Conference in Nashville again next year.