This year, the New Jersey DECA Northeastern Regional Conference was held on January 8th at Ramapo College in Mahwah. 190 students were registered to compete in different role plays events in categories ranging from entrepreneurship to finance.
Each individual and pair had to role-play in front of a judge based on a scenario they were given either 10 (solo role plays) or 30 minutes (team role plays) before presenting. The three highest-scoring students on both role-plays and qualification tests received awards. The top 17 students for solo events and top 13 for partner role-plays advance to the statewide competition in March: a multi-day State Career Development Conference at Harrah’s Atlantic City resort.
These role play events test students’ ability to come up with solutions on the spot, communication skills, and confidence. Competitive events fall into six different career clusters: Business Management & Administration, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Finance, Hospitality and Tourism, as well as Personal Financial Literacy.
Qualifying for state competition gets harder with each passing year, as the competition increases in both quality and quantity. 47 students qualified this year- 12 teams and 23 solo competitors.
In terms of the student experience, students left school around 8 am and all 190 DECA competitors had returned to RHS by 1 pm. However, there were many events that ran late, some ran late by more than an hour and a half, leading to a frustrating morning for many students. Junior Victoria Lyakerman commented on the experience, stating that “waiting so long was so frustrating that by the time our event was called, my partner and I were more concerned with getting our role play over with rather than excelling with our scenario”. Many students were faced with this plight, an unfortunate side effect of so many competitors at Ramapo College.
However, the results were well worth the long morning, for those that got to see their hard work over the past few months finally pay off. Every DECA student is required to have 2 “DECA hours” prior to district competition, in order to ensure that members have practiced and put thought into their role play prior to the moment in which they are first in front of the judge. The role play committee works hard to run “prep nights” for members to attend, simulating almost exactly what the day of competition looks like. This allows for students to have the best chance of success.
Chapter adviser, Karen Mendez reflects on the 2020 Northeast Career Development Conference. “I thought our students continued to perform well at the district level. We have tough competition in the North East region with Northern Highlands and BCA as the top two schools. We had 47 students qualify in their events and a few more just out of quality position. I’m proud of our chapter and their performance. I’m looking forward to states and the start of the paper events.”
Kaylin Marshall, a member of this committee, stated that “from a leadership perspective, it is really nice to watch people qualify that we know we have had an impact on. Since this is my third year in DECA, getting to give back and help others find success has been a very rewarding experience so far”. The competition committee has worked very hard this DECA season to make sure that all the Ridgewood High School DECA members are prepared for their events by hosting testing and role play preparation events.
Senior New Jersey DECA President, Katie Hu, says this about her last districts experience. “This year was extra special for me as I was able to compete and meet other members in the area. The conference went smoothly and I’m so glad members of our chapter have qualified for states! My partner Sophie and I have qualified every year and it is weird thinking it was our last year at Ramapo.”
Another interesting aspect of DECA is that members do not need to qualify on their role play event in order to attend state competition. Writing a ten or twenty page paper guarantees a spot at states in Atlantic City, and allows you the chance to potentially move on to nationals. This opportunity is extremely helpful, since qualifying for states can depend on many other factors than just ones individual ability. Some potentially influential factors include the judge, how many people are in the category, and the quality of the competition on that specific day.
Some notable qualifiers include Matt Olivio, who received 1st place in Customer Service, as well as Kaylin Marshall and Sofia Lee who also received 1st place in Sports Entertainment and Marketing Team Decision Making. They were all thrilled with their performances. Sofia Lee commented that, “this was Kaylin and I’s first year as DECA partners but I knew that we would work well together. It was so exciting to win our category, especially with such strong competition in our region”. They hope to continue this success in the future.
The next step for Ridgewood High School DECA is the State Career Development Conference at Harrah’s! The chapter is looking forward to competing at states and are hoping they bring back DECA Glass and qualify for the International Career Development Conference in Nashville, Tennessee!
Katie Hu and Caroline Loscalzo
Graphic: Sofia Lee