State High DECA Competes at Pennsylvania DECA States


Hannah Shumsky

State High DECA students pose in front of the Hershey World sign after arriving at the state competition on Feb. 22. Students had opportunities to go to Hershey World or the local outlets when they weren’t competing at the nearby Hershey Lodge. Photo courtesy of Hannah Shumsky

Lisa Wang, News Editor

On Feb. 22, Pennsylvania DECA held its State competition in Hershey, PA. Over 2,600 students attended the two-day event. State High DECA brought 56 students to the event, each student having already taken the exam corresponding to their event.

Director of Hospitality Abigail Sparrow explained the process to compete at States.

“Two weeks before [States], we all take [an] exam, and depending on your event, you get a different exam. So there’s a Marketing exam, Entrepreneurship exam, and Financial exam. They take that score and your roleplay score–roleplay is like a case study where you walk in the room, get a case study and ten minutes to prepare, then you go present it to a judge– for individuals, they average your two roleplay scores with your test score, and that’s your point value. The highest point value wins. For teams they average your test scores and your roleplay scores and average it and give you point value,” she stated. 

The students that placed top five in their event had one of the highest averages between role-play scores and test scores. 18 of the 56 students that attended States were able to place and of those, 17 are eligible to attend International Career Development Conference (ICDC), which will occur from April 22 to April 25 in Orlando, Florida.

These students include:

  • Miles McCormick,  Principles of Finance, 1st place 
  • Isabella Poehner, Principles of Marketing, 5th Place
  • Poppy Rusca, Principles of Marketing, 4th Place 
  • Lila Mathias, Automotive Services, 2nd place 
  • Abby Putnam, Food Marketing, 5th place 
  • Mike Guo, Restaurant and Food Service Management, 4th Place 
  • Ian Savitiski, Sports and Entertainment Marketing, 4th Place 
  • Abigail Sparrow and Avigail Mazer, Entrepreneurship Team, 1st Place 
  • Grace Shang and Sam Ikenberry, Financial Services Team Decision Making, 2nd place 
  • Abigail Sparrow and Sam Kilariski, Hospitality Services Team Decision Making, 1st Place 
  • Alaina Duncan and Carley Erickson, Marketing Management Team Decision Making, 3rd Place 
  • Jessie Chen and Sam Li, Marketing Management Team Decision Making, 4th Place
  • Nolan Powell,  Materials/Handling Logistics High School, 2nd Place

The overall experience for everyone was a positive and enjoyable time. 

“[My overall experience] was really good. I really really love DECA and it’s a great bonding experience and a great networking experience. There’s a lot of downtime other than the actual competition, so there’s a lot of fun things you get to do,” Mathias, who serves as the State High DECA Director of Marketing, said. 

Sparrow echoed a similar sentiment.

“My overall experience was a ton of fun. I mean, getting to meet so many new people and the experience of not only missing school but just being around so many people. There [was] always music playing and something to do. It was just so much fun,” Sparrow explained.

President Grace Shang had similar experiences, but also one that differed from other students. As the President of  State High DECA and PA DECA Vice President of Community Outreach, Shang has the responsibility of representing the State High in PA DECA. These responsibilities included planning out States and ensuring States ran smoothly. 

“I really enjoyed my States experience this year. This was my last year and I was a part of the state office again this year like last year, so I had a really fun time running states, organizing– especially the charity activities that we did there as well as competing since that’s a large part of my DECA experience. I really enjoy doing that and I had a really good time,” Shang said. “My favorite part each year is probably the mini awards that we have the night before grand awards. It’s when we award the top three presentations and tasks in each event. A lot of people get to go on stage, especially a lot of people who are from State High, cause we usually do pretty well at mini-awards. Just getting to see everybody achieve their goals, and even if they’re not awarded at grand awards, being able to get the recognition that they deserve for all the work that they do, I really enjoy watching it and being a part of it this year.”

Although placing at States was the main goal, there were still many lessons to be learned from the experience–even when students have already attended States before.

“I learned a lot about not doubting yourself. It might sound a little cliche, but my event was completely male [dominant] because it’s an automotive event,” Matthias exclaimed. “To be the only girl up on stage, I was basically being cheered on by the entire room whenever they were doing the dally and whenever I got called to be in the top five, so it was just a nice lesson, to prove [and] to see that I could do it.”

Shang has been a part of DECA since her freshman year, and yet, she still learns a lot from each competition. 

“I learn new things every time that I compete. I’ve learned that the subjectivity that comes along with scoring is sometimes not always favorable, but it’s the most equitable they can make it, so I think I really respect the way the competition is run in general. Every time I compete, I do learn a little bit more about myself and the things I’m presenting about as well,” Shang stated.

For those attending ICDC, the outlook is bright and promising. Many teams are hoping to place while also enjoying the experience in Orlando, Florida.

“I’m not too worried about placing; that’s not really my goal out of ICDC,” Mathias said. “I just want to take in the experience, and be able to network and take a lot from the different workshops or the different experiences we’ll get. And just meeting new people– I think that’ll be fun.”

Shang has high hopes for ICDC, but she will still be happy with any result she gets. 

“Since this is my last year, our prospects are set on internationals and trying to compete very well there this year, kind of as a last run; [to] make it the best that we can be. I’m looking forward to it,” Shang said. “My partner and I have pretty large aspirations for ICDC. We’re hoping to finalize again this year, so that means top ten internationally. We’re aiming for [the] top three, but whatever happens, I think we’ll be happy and we’ll know that we’ve spent a lot of time dedicated to this organization and the competitive experience was really what’s worthwhile for us.”

DECA might mainly focus on business and competition, but it still has a giant impact on the students in the organization. From teaching life skills to new friendships, DECA prepares students for life in many ways.

“DECA has impacted my life more than I could put into words,” Matthias stated. “When I came into high school, I was a STEM student through and through, but then after I joined DECA, I realized that I hated math and stuff, and I was just doing it because I was good at it. DECA really  showed me that I do like business, especially marketing because I’m the director of marketing– I’ve been able to learn a lot about that and how I enjoy it.”

DECA had a similar impact on Sparrow.

“For me, [I learned how to be] a more confident leader, and just a confident speaker. Last year, I couldn’t breathe during the speech. But it brought out a lot of my personality and I’m very thankful for the experience and getting to travel [to] the ICDC last year and then going again this year. It’s brought me a whole group of friends; the whole officer team are my best friends, “ Sparrow explained. 

Shang’s life without DECA would have been completely different. 

“ECA has allowed me to meet some of the closest people that I’ve become friends with over my course of time in high school. I really appreciate that and attribute a lot of the relationships that I have to DECA. It’s also helped me put me on the career path that I intend on pursuing. I compete at a Finance event and I intend on pursuing a career in the financial services field,” Shang stated. “Being able to do DECA and to learn how to both present and technical finance knowledge through DECA has been really valuable for me as a high school student, and has really helped me– especially throughout this past year as I’m applying to university to get an undergraduate degree.”

Whether it’s building close friendships with the DECA team or preparing students for their career paths and giving them life skills, DECA is a great program for students. As of right now, they are furiously preparing for ICDC, being that it is their last major competition of the season. Outlooks are bright and positive for the entire team, and even if they do not end up placing as high as they wish, ICDC will still be an amazing experience for its attendees.