BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Ten Penta Career Center-Anthony Wayne High School students are heading to Orlando next month to compete in the DECA International Career Development Conference – after placing among the top five finishers in their categories during the March 10-11 state competition.
“The students face probably more than 40 competitors in each event, so making the top five is quite an accomplishment,” said AW DECA advisor Becky Stutz, who teaches business, marketing, and DECA classes at Anthony Wayne High School – a satellite program of Penta Career Center.
Seven of the 10 students will test their skills in categories such as accounting, financial services, business law and ethics, marketing communications and principles of hospitality by doing role play scenarios that need to be completed in less than 30 minutes. These are the same categories in which team members nabbed finishes among the top five during the state competition, explained Blake Luther, a senior who is returning to his second national competition.
Taking first place were Sam Rodriguez and Evan Stigall, who were faced with a scenario in which a realty firm is struggling financially to hire more personnel but is considering hiring five unpaid interns.
“The question was should we go along with the unpaid internship or is it unethical to have the interns do the same work as paid employees?” Sam said. “We agreed that yes, we can do the program as long as we’re transparent and don’t trick anyone. We believe the benefits of the internship in the long term will make it worth it.”
Blake and his partner, Luke Essig, competed in financial services and took second place. The teens were asked to come up with a solution for a securities firm whose clients are losing money due to scams and frauds.
“Our job was to create a plan to prevent that and stop it from moving forward,” Luke said. “We partnered with Verizon to create firewalls for computers, phones, laptops and tablets, and created a phone number so that suspicious calls go through Verizon first to block spam calls.”
While the group didn’t actually contact Verizon, DECA students are permitted to “make things up” while preparing their solutions – such as potential partners, Blake explained.
Will Luther took fifth place in accounting with his role play involving ethics and calculations.
Part of the role playing score is a test taken prior to the live competition, he explained, and that quizzes students on their knowledge of that particular field as well as business terms.
Helena Goodman also took fifth place, competing in marketing communications. She came up with solutions for two different scenarios. The first was to find a promotional plan to convince people to start putting their coins back into the economy. Her answer was to partner with local banks to create free ATMs and target an older audience through advertising on the radio and in the newspaper. A second role play involved marketing a foot odor eliminator to a different age group than the current market of ages 49-69. She decided to target athletes and sign on LeBron James as an influencer in an online campaign.
In principles of hospitality, Owen Hildebrand focused on ways to get information on how far customers were driving to come to a theme park. While he earned sixth place, one of the DECA members from elsewhere in the state is unable to attend the national conference.
“It’s called a bump,” Stutz said. “Ohio wants to send the full amount of delegates, so if someone can’t go because of prom or sports, the next person gets bumped up.”
Three AW DECA students opted for projects – which provide the benefit of being able to invest time up front and be more prepared for the international competition.
Ally Roberts and Hannah Johnson placed second in integrated marketing campaigns for a 10-page paper and presentation on how to promote West Toledo Animal Hospital, where Hannah’s mom, Lindsay Johnson, is veterinarian operations manager. The teens created a video of the hospital and laid out plans for increased social media presence.
Mallori Pollock took third place in integrated marketing campaigns by finding ways to increase the number of students and volunteers participating in a Bowling Green State University Women in STEM event.
While the business marketing classes and DECA club are separate, the two are intertwined – and often the questions asked on tests or in on-the-spot competitions are the same as those covered during class, such as the seven performance indicators of marketing, Sam said.
To prepare, the students also spent time listening to each other’s presentations and going through flashcards and potential scenarios.
“We all help each other a lot and give each other feedback,” said Blake.
Last year, Blake attended the international competition in Atlanta, where over 15,000 students competed during the multi-day event. He did a role play in quick-serve restaurant management, which utilized his experience as an employee at Chick-fil-A. While he didn’t place in the top tier internationally, Blake said it was beneficial – as are all of the competitions.
“It helps with soft skills and presentation skills like public speaking and how to think on the fly,” Blake said.
Stutz agreed, noting that alumni in many different fields tell her that the problem-solving and creative thinking skills have been beneficial as they move on in their careers.
While Ally and Hannah plan to get into medical fields, the other eight students say they’re interested in business, marketing and finance after graduation.
For now, their focus is on Orlando, where they’ll not only compete but also take trips to Disney World and Universal Studios.
Blake also will have an added bonus: taking the stage to earn one of the coveted DECA scholarships.
“Blake is only the third student in my 30-year career to get a scholarship,” Stutz said.