SMA students take top awards at DECA competition

St. Marys Area High School’s DECA Club had an impressive showing at the District 1 Competition, as over 30 members advanced to the State Leadership Conference taking place in Hershey from Feb. 23-25, 2011.Approximately 145 DECA students from throughout the region recently gathered at The Royal Inn in Ridgway for the district competition. DECA Clubs from McDowell, Bradford and St. Marys high schools participated, along with students enrolled at Jeff Tech and Venango Technical Center.DECA organizations are aimed at preparing emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.This is the third year St. Marys has hosted the district competition, according to SMA DECA Advisor and faculty member Michelle Jackson. Jackson is also the District 1 Advisor and is responsible for overseeing the event.“In addition, St. Marys has the largest number of chapter members, with 84 students,” Jackson noted.While this is the second year the competition has been hosted at The Royal Inn, the event was previously held at the St. Marys Country Club for one year.Jackson also secured the judges for this year’s event. Various community leaders and business members acted as judges, including State Representative Matt Gabler (R-Elk/Clearfield); Fritz Lecker, office manager for Rep. Gabler; Elk County Commissioner Daniel Freeburg; Judy Galsick of North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission; Pam Cousins of Elk County Children and Youth Services; Paula Weyant of the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce; Richard Gavazzi of the Elk County Planning Department; Ronnette Sovich, manager of Christopher and Banks clothing store in the DuBois Mall; and Brenda McCullough, manager of Bonworth clothing store."I was very impressed with the structure of DECA, the commitment of the teachers who readily showed their enthusiasm and knowledge, and certainly was impressed by the caliber of students whom I met and had the pleasure of interacting with through projects and presentation judging,” Freeburg said. “I was surprised at the level of many of the students’ demonstrated abilities, professionalism, and mastery of their project challenges."Weyant noted the serious nature in which students treated the event. “I think the overall program is great in preparing the kids for what is expected of them in the job market. Life skills that are learned at that level tend to stick with you,” Weyant said.Lecker expressed the amount of personal satisfaction she received from judging the event.“The students were awesome: neatly dressed, cheerful, well-behaved, and most spoke very eloquently. Judging from the cheers during the trophy announcements, they were enthusiastic about representing their school and cheering for their peers,” Lecker said. As part of the competition, students are required to complete a 100-question multiple choice test in the cluster areas of Marketing, Business Administration Core, Business Management and Administration, Finance, Hospitality and Tourism. Students are then given a scenario in the area they chose to compete in and take 10-15 minutes to present their solutions and findings to the judges. The two scores, from the test and scenario, are totaled to determine who places in the top four places for individual events and top two places for team events. Students help defray the cost of their trips by hosting fundraisers. For more on this story, see the Dec. 15 edition of The Daily Press.