Hopewell High School hosts future leaders at DECA conference
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Dec 10, 2012, 13:24
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson A DECA student studies the written portion of his test on Wednesday.
The students in the Hopewell High School auditorium on Wednesday afternoon were hunched over papers, their brows furrowed in concentration. A few years from now, those same students may be occupying corner offices as future business leaders in the world.
As members of DECA, an international association of marketing students, they are participating in a program that describes its mission as preparing “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.”
On Wednesday, Hopewell High School was hosting students from Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Petersburg and Prince George for the District 20 Leadership Conference, a qualifying event that will select students who will go on to participate in competitions at the state, national and international levels.
“Something like this happening in Hopewell is definitely a big advantage for us,” said Tracy “TJ” Iler, president of Hopewell High School DECA and Vice President of District 20 DECA. “It brings all these surrounding counties to Hopewell and it puts us on the map, if you ask me.”
The competition consists of an extensive multiple choice test as well as more life-like challenges to test their skills.
“Later on during the day, the students will have different role plays that they’re going to do that goes along with their category,” Iler explained. “They’ll have about 10 minutes to prep for that and then they’ll be in front of a judge for the rest of that.”
Iler said that the role-plays offer a realistic view of how businesses work.
“The first thing that I look at is their overall demeanor,” said Will Drewry, a former DECA student from Farmville who won first place at the state level in marketing management in 2007 and was one of the judges at Wednesday’s competition. “Then I look at the way they’re dressed. We really can’t score based on that, but it helps if there’s a tie of something like that. I look at eye contact, I look at their presentation, I look at the way they answer the questions and the thought that they put into each question.”
Drewry, who now works in the public safety and communications in a supervisory role said that the skills he learned through the program have helped him in his adult life.
“I’ve found it really helpful, especially the interviewing skills,” he said.
Brian Douglas Jr, a junior at Clover Hill Mathematics and Science High School in Chesterfield County who serves as president of Virginia DECA, was at Hopewell High School on Wednesday to assist with the competition.
“This first conference is the foundation upon which all of our students progress through the competition level,” he said, speaking after the opening session. “So this is where it all truly begins, and this is where the main experience of DECA kind of accumlutes from the students, and this is where they implement it.”
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Deca students were divided into testing groups based on their areas of expertise. The written test and role play determined scores at the conference, which will allow students to move on to the next round of competition.
He said that students at all different levels of the program were being tested on their skills in automotive service, fashion, principles of marketing, job interview, social media and every aspect of DECA.
Since it’s foundation in 1946, the organization says that more than 10 million educators, school administrators and students have participated in the program.