For students in RHS DECA, the whole school year has been leading up to these six days, DECA’s International Career Development Conference in Orlando, Florida. From arriving on April 25th, to the official convention from April 27th-30th, and leaving on the 31st, DECA members participated in an event that marked the culmination of an entire year of work and preparation.

More than 19,000 students from around the globe attended the conference. 39 RHS attendees competed, participating in presentations, tests, and role-plays that focused on marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. Ten others attended Academy, a way for students that did not pass states in their competitive event to learn and connect with students from across the country. Following the District and State rounds, 49 RHS students were able to attend ICDC, the largest group in RHS history to attend Internationals.

10:00 PM: Once they touched down at Orlando International after a three hour flight, the group was on its way down the highway, surrounded by the famous lakes and lagoons of Florida, in transit to the magical land of Orlando. At times, although the focus of the trip had always been competing and networking, the trip felt like more of a vacation than a typical school trip. The perk of this year’s location was obvious — Disney World. Between competitions, students rode Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom and Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios.

On the first full day of the trip, Friday, RHS DECA participated in the Disney Youth Education Series at Hollywood Studios. The group split in three and attended the “Managing Your Brand” program which focused on personal branding and how to make yourself more attractive to colleges, companies, and peers.

Back at the conference, attendees visited Saturday’s Opening Session, where RHS students were pretty bored. Even still, everyone was excited that the conference was finally commencing and in the hour before the speeches started, they had fun trading New Jersey state pins with pins from other states. The keynote speaker, Ben Nemtin, a Canadian producer, writer, speaker and television personality, was the mastermind behind the critically acclaimed MTV series “The Buried Life.” Nemtin inspired the audience by speaking about his journey while creating the show and how he made his seemingly impossible dreams such as playing basketball with then President Barack Obama possible.

The following days consisted of taking tests, competing in role plays, presenting to judges, and the simple act of turning in papers. Underneath all of it, however, was the anticipation of waiting for results to come out.

Even still, during the heat of Monday’s competition, DECA students still found room to visit a third theme park. While fellow RHS students back home were facing the start of a full week of schoolwork in anticipation for upcoming AP exams and a strong fourth quarter performance across the board, Universal Studios had been closed to the public for a DECA exclusive Universal Night. RHS students especially enjoyed the thrill rides of Universal: The Mummy, Hollywood Rock-it, and The Hulk.

Somehow, there was also time for enjoying the Hilton Orlando’s various amenities: carelessly lounging in the pool, sunbathing, hot-tubbing, trips down the lazy river, and dinners around bonfires. But Google Classroom notifications and early mornings were always there to remind students that although it may have felt like one, this was definitely not a vacation.

On the last morning, the RHS delegation gathered in the lobby, a group of satisfied, sunburned students in high spirits, happily reflecting upon the past few days. While no one from Ridgewood carried any DECA hardware in their luggage, students did carry cool pins and merchandise traded from other states. Regardless of the outcome, all participants returned with fun memories, new experiences in DECA competition, and a renewed drive to reach Nashville next year for ICDC 2020.

Logan Richman & Aaron Friedman
staff writers

Graphic: Logan Richman & Aaron Friedman

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