DECA Students Headed To California Competition

Penta-Maumee DECA seniors headed to the DECA International Career Development Conference are (from left) back row, Liam Murphy, Jack Lake, Taylor Lewis and Travis Moebius; middle row, Emerson Fay, Sky Janes, Addi Bertsch and Josie Brooks; and front row, Anna Ohashi, Allie Miller, Tannaya Ridley, Cait Smalley and Lauren Blair. MIRROR PHOTO BY KRISTI FISH

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Twenty-one Penta-Maumee DECA students are headed to California this month to prove their entrepreneurship skills in hospitality, marketing, finance and management.

The DECA International Career Development Conference brings together more than 20,000 high school students, advisors and other business professionals in Anaheim, Calif., on April 27-30.

Penta-Maumee DECA advisor Robin Bruderly has spent the school year preparing her students for this moment where they will present to judges, competing against the best of their peers.

“Aside from the networking and presenting, this helps real-life skills,” Bruderly said of the competition. “It gives the opportunity to see more of the world.”

Beyond the projects in the classroom, Bruderly also prepares her students for life after high school, where multitasking is a priority.

The students gain public speaking skills and confidence in interviews. They also learn how to network with peers and leaders and to complete large-scale projects in a timely manner.

Many of Bruderly’s former students who reach out to her thank her because of the skills they learned in DECA, which later helped them in college or getting a dream job.

DECA also builds connections the students will use for years to come, she said.

“One thing that I like about these DECA trips is I get the chance to network and meet people from all over the country, all over the world, really, that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” said senior Anna Ohashi.

Anna is one of 13 seniors from Penta-Maumee DECA headed to California for a business operations research event.

This year, the students connected with several local businesses and closely focused on talent and acquisition for their project, as DECA chooses a topic that is relevant to the business world that year.

“With COVID and the great resignation of people leaving the workforce, they chose to have this year’s topic focus on ‘how do we promote our jobs, hire people, onboard them, retain them?’ all of the things related to that talent acquisition and retention,” Bruderly explained. “That was the focus of all of the research.”

The students began their projects in the fall, Anna added.

Each group of one to three performed surveys of people within the industry of their focus. For Anna, that meant those in the sports industry, as one of the businesses she focused on was CycleWerks.

Each research project connected with local businesses, evaluating them for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, Anna said.

“Then we did a focus group, so we grabbed people – teachers, employees – and just asked them about their onboarding experience and different things through their work experience that they thought was useful,” she added.

For each project, the students then had to piece together a 20-page paper and a presentation that would grab the judges’ attention, while anticipating their questions.

All of those are valuable skills, for high school and beyond, Bruderly noted.

Outside of the research projects, several juniors, including Alex Dolder, Shannon Tolbert, Jasmyn Khan, Kylie Gerken, Kirsten Green, Audrey Wagner, Kaylee Clixby and Ainsley Heckman are headed to the competition for various projects.

“We have some juniors going for selling events, innovation plans,” Bruderly said. “I’ve got kids going in a number of different events.”

From the time they leave Maumee to the time they arrive back in town, the students will be practicing real-life skills at the competition, the airport, the hotel and even the various sightseeing locations they get to visit on their trip.

When they conclude their trip at the end of April, the students will be able to showcase the real-life skills they have obtained and also utilize their entrepreneurial skills they have gained from their various projects, which is Bruderly’s goal for every student who walks through her doors. 

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