By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN Just completing its second season of competition, the Dassel-Cokato DECA ended in good shape for next year.
Twenty-one of the 34 students advanced to the State Career Development Conference in Minneapolis, competing among roughly 1,800 students from across the state.
DECA is similar to FFA competition-wise, explained advisor Neil Schlagel, sans the agriculture portion. Instead, the focus is on business and marketing, offering a wide range of events students can choose from.
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Students compete as individuals in teams of up to three, depending on the event.
Skills events include public speaking, employment interviews, and economics in marketing.
Career cluster events allow students either individuals or teams of two a chance to solve “real-world problems” related to business and marketing, Schlagel explained.
Some of the categories in this event include hotel and lodging, human resources, retail merchandising, travel and tourism, and sports and entertainment marketing.
In this event, students are given a scenario and allowed a half-hour to prepare for a role-playing event.
For example, students may be given a situation with a dissatisfied customer, and determine how to come to a reasonable solution.
“It puts kids in a spot where they have to think on their feet,” Schlagel said. “They have to be able to react to criticism and objections, which they will face in the real world,” Schlagel commented.
Other events include prepared event, which are written. Such categories for these events include ad campaigns, fashion merchandising, community service, and public relations.
This year, the club participated in a community service project focused on battling childhood cancer and led by Gabriella Funk, Kenzie Marco, and Paige Sangren.
“They were able to make finals with their project,” Schlagel said, “which is a pretty big accomplishment.”
Schlagel is in his second year teaching business at Dassel-Cokato High School. Previously, he owned a restaurant while finishing his teaching degree.
It was during that period that he was introduced to DECA by being asked to be a judge for one of the competitions in the event of restaurant management.
“I was impressed with the ideas the kids came up with and how unique they were,” Schlagel said.
His experience as a judge compelled him to start a DECA chapter when he came to DC last year.
“It’s an opportunity for students to open doors that were closed before,” Schlagel said, adding that they compete against other students from metro schools, where the competition is tough.
“You get to measure up against students who are in the top of their class,” Schlagel said. “You also get a better idea of who you will be competing against for a job.”
Students begin preparing in the fall for the district competition, which takes place in February.
If students place within the top six to eight in most events, they advance to the state competition.
Students compete against 55 schools at state and 15 schools at districts and are judged by business owners, employees, and instructors from around the state.
Not only is this a competitive activity for students with ranging interests, but it’s a creative outlet and opportunity to network with other students, Schlagel explained.
It’s also fun, said Funk, who joined last year as a junior, and this year was the club president.
“First, you meet so many people, and secondly, it’s fun and you get to be creative,” she said.
Funk noted that she really enjoys business, and plans to minor in it, incorporating it with her major of intercultural studies.
Funk and her team moved on to state and “were really close to nationals,” which will be in Atlanta, GA this summer, but had some penalty points on the written portion of the event.
Senior Mason Hjemeland also competed at state March 2-4 in Minneapolis, in the category of employment interview.
With three jobs thus far in his high school career, and as a member of the National Guard, Hjemeland and Schlagel found this to be a good category.
He ended the season in the top 12 of about 80 students competing in the category.
“I would encourage other people to join [DECA] and get information on it, if they don’t know what it is,” Hjemeland said.
In addition, Ryan Chvojicek, Michael Chvojicek, David Howell, and Zach Martin finished in the top eight with their product marketing plan.
Sophomore Corey Siltala earned a medal for having one of the highest test scores in the business finance series. Several others from DC were also close to making the finals.
“We have a nice base to build on for next year,” Schlagel said. “I am proud of the way our students competed in the chapter’s second year. It was a great learning experience for all.”