Seven El Dorado High School students had the chance to test out their business skills on the national stage when they competed at the DECA, Inc. international competition last month.
Ryan Hull has sponsored the EHS DECA chapter for seven years, and in 2017 he saw the most ever students qualify for the international contest. To qualify, the students needed to place in the top three in their divisions at the state competition in Overland Park.
“State is pretty competitive,” Hull said, citing DECA’s growing popularity.
DECA is an international organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. This year’s national contest, held in Anaheim, California, hosted students from around the country and even from a large handful of other countries.
The El Dorado students who qualified are: Nate Rhodes and Trevor Burnett, financial literacy; Andrew Tipton, business finance; Jarin Koehler, sports and entertainment marketing; Brock Harvey, accounting applications; and Grace Myers, professional selling.
Hull said he has taken at least one student a year to the DECA international competition. This year the high school’s DECA group grew to 23 students. While he likes to see increased interest in business and entrepreneurship, Hull said he thinks some of the students’ success is because with a smaller club, he is able to work one-on-one with his students.
“We are able to really dive into it,” Hull said. “We do projects, like the financial literacy project.”
Hull is referencing an event organized by Rhodes and Burnett in fall 2016 where they both taught financial literacy lessons to first graders in every elementary school in the district. Then they invited financial professionals to give advice a financial literacy event that was free to the public.
Students involved in DECA meet one time a week outside of school hours to prepare for and practice their competitive events. Hull said the students gain a great deal from their participation in DECA.
“Another aspect of it is the soft skills,” he said. “I believe a lot of kids lack soft skills to function in the business world, handshakes, how to dress, things like that.”
Students involved also help with the group’s two major annual fundraisers, a father-daughter dance and a carnival. These fundraisers make the club able to pay the travel expenses for the students to travel to the national competition.
Hull said the work getting to nationals is worth the experience for the students. At the competition, the students take a test, role play and learn about careers at the vendor fair. This year, students also went to the beach and Universal Studios.
“Not only is it a great experience educationally, but a lot of these kids haven’t seen ocean before,” Hull said, “so just the overall social experience is great.”