DECA members advance to international competition

From left are DECA members Taylor Matthews, Chris Turner, Diego Prince, Meghan Whitehead and Trinity McCann. (Courtesy Photo)

From left are DECA members Taylor Matthews, Chris Turner, Diego Prince, Meghan Whitehead and Trinity McCann. (Courtesy Photo)

By Dana Delgado

Established only a year ago, the Liberty Hill High School business-oriented DECA Chapter made a resounding statement last month at the state competition in San Antonio. Every LHHS participant finished among the top seven in their respective events at the Feb. 26 state event and qualified for the International Business Competition in Nashville on April 23-26.

“Every competitor did an amazing job!” exclaimed Vickie Peterson, business teacher and co-sponsor of the local DECA chapter. “We are so proud of their results.”

“We’re excited and excited for them,” exclaimed co-sponsor and culinary and hospitality teacher Kathy Becker. “Through their projects, they have learned that they have the power to create change.”

DECA is a business, marketing and hospitality student organization with high school and college chapters around the world.

“Last year was our first year to have a DECA chapter at LHHS,” said Peterson.  “In our short time we have grown to 50 members, And beyond competitions, we also volunteer at community activities such as Operation Liberty Hill, LHHS Fall Festival, LH Christmas Festival, and babysitting at the Hill Elementary on teacher/parent conference days.”

The triumphant Liberty Hill contingent includes Emily Duncan, Diego Prince, Meghan Whitehead, Carrie Haskell, Trinity McCann, Chris Turner, and Taylor Matthews. According to the sponsors, 1,500 students competed in the state event with 75-100 participants contending in each category. The qualifying students, competing in different categories as individuals or in teams, received medals and plaques for their presentations and will have the opportunity to vie for scholarships at the international competition.

LHHS seniors Emily Duncan, Diego Prince and Meghan Whitehead qualified in a team event that focused on a community service project. The students’ 15-minute presentation, which included visual aids and a 30-page document, outlined their efforts to raise funds for an elevator for Operation Liberty Hill’s new facility. Duncan said the group raised $13,000 through a series of fundraisers and will continue their efforts to reach the $15,000 goal. While intense and highly competitive, the senior team agreed the experience has been rewarding. It so affected Prince that he now volunteers regularly with Operation Liberty Hill.

“We’ve come such a long way,” said Duncan. “It will be nice to learn more and perfect our skills.”

Also participating in a team event but in the category dealing with a Creative Marketing Project were Liberty Hill High School freshmen Carrie Haskell and Trinity McCann.

The Haskell-McCann team explored the development of Liberty Hill’s downtown by surveying citizens, meeting with the town’s former executive director of Economic Development and making a presentation to the EDC Board, which recommended the two assume operations of the town’s social media.

“We learned everyone contributes to change,” said McCann. “Everyone should have a voice.”

Both first-time participants said the state competition was intense.

“We were terrified after we made our presentation because the judges didn’t ask us any questions,” added McCann. “We never thought as freshmen that we would advance to the international competition,” said Haskell. “We have a lot to learn as freshmen and I plan to change to business classes.”

Competing in an individual series event focused on Human Resources Management was Chris Turner, a LHHS junior and vice-president of the DECA Chapter. Turner had to role play a problem solving situation after having only 10 minutes to prepare for the human resources issue.

“I did not expect to hear my name (as a qualifier),” said Turner who is in his second year of competition. “I felt numb and had to walk across a large auditorium but I felt really good!”

The junior qualifier, who is planning to major in International Business after graduating from high school, said that his experiences in DECA and in the competitions have helped him make valuable connections.

LHHS sophomore Taylor Matthews also competed in an individual series event. In her category of Personal Finance, Matthews prepared and participated in an interview.

“I felt it went way too quickly and I was really, really nervous,” she said. “It was stressful waiting for the results and it got crazy since I was the next to last name called, but it’s been an amazing opportunity.”

So affected by her experiences in DECA including developing strong bonds, the two-time competitor and chapter secretary said she will likely be a business major in college.

DECA co-sponsor Peterson said much was learned last year in the chapter’s first year of existence when five students competed but did not qualify for the international contests.

“At the beginning of this school year, we talked about the competition and the responsibility that would go with it,” said Peterson, adding that a presentation by the director of Operation Liberty Hill challenged students to sign up. “Students had to see that this is something they can do and they did. They have grown with confidence, have made a difference in the community and it’s helped them visualize their futures,” Peterson said.