For its first year in the DECA program, West Salem High School is off to an impressive start.
DECA — formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America — prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management and other business-related endeavors.
Jason Holter, business education teacher at the high school and the group’s adviser, had 22 students in the DECA program this year, most of them freshmen and sophomores.
Three of those students — sophomores Erin Faella and Adam Peterson and freshman Kyrsten Stockus — finished among the top five in the state DECA competition. That qualified them for a trip to Anaheim, Calif., and the international DECA conference.
Held April 24-27, that event featured top five finishers in each category from every state plus Mexico, Canada, Germany and Guam.
Holter accompanied the West Salem trio and was thrilled with how well his students responded. “All in all, it was just a fantastic experience,” Holter said. “The kids did a great job of representing West Salem.”
As in the state DECA finals, students had to complete a written test, then role play a situation related to their category.
Faella competed in a category called Principles of Hospitality and Management while Peterson and Stockus were competing in a category called Principles of Business Management and Administration.
There were roughly 150 students in each category, and Faella made the finals in her category (the top 17 students).
Those 17 were then asked to role play another possible work situation. Although Faella did not win the competition, she was thrilled by the comments of one of her judges — a manager at the Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. She told Faella that she would hire her today if she were applying for a job.
“The most enjoyable part of the trip,” Faella said, “was to have the opportunity to meet and network with a bunch of really neat people from all over the world. My favorite part of the conference was standing up on stage in front of 16,000 other elite DECA competitors — it was such an honor to be a series finalist after my first year of DECA.”
Besides the competition the West Salem contingent got time to do a little sightseeing. “We did a tour of Warner Brothers Studios, took in a Dodger game and visited Santa Monica Beach and Huntington Beach,” Holter said.
The entire trip was “amazing,” according to Peterson, and he said it could affect his future.
“To say that I took first at state and qualified to compete at an international level looks amazing on any resumé, so it will help getting a job, or getting accepted at a college, or getting an internship or something of that sort,” Peterson said.
He added that before joining DECA he’d never thought about getting a job in the field of business. “I now know more about business management and administration, and what jobs like that are like than I ever thought I would,” Peterson said.
Like Peterson, Faella said she believes the trip has impacted her future. “I’m taking business classes next year,” she said, “and now I’m hoping to major in business in college.
“I learned so much — not only about business, but things like how to shake hands and how to conduct a proper interview,” Faella continued. “But I learned about myself as well and I learned that I love the business field and I can, and will, have a successful future.”