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Hillcrest DECA Students Qualify for National Contest

Apr 07, 2016 02:30PM ● Published by Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Midvale - After 52 Hillcrest students participated in state DECA contests, 17 students are advancing to national competition.

DECA is a nonprofit student organization that prepares emerging high school leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. There are more than 215,000 members in 3,500 high school chapters across the United States. 

“Hillcrest DECA students are excited and want to share their successes,” entrepreneurship teacher and DECA adviser Emily Merrill said. “They tell their friends and get them to be involved. At region and state, I just felt like a proud mom. I was so excited for them.”

Seventeen students qualified for nationals by placing in the top three in the role model and written contests, with three students qualifying in two competitions. 

Those who qualified with their top three placements at state and their contest are Christopher Turner, first place in accounting applications; Yingyue Li and Michelle White, first place in buying and merchandising; Jalen Rasmussen, first place in principles of hospitality; Rylee Brown and Suraj Ramkumar, first place in travel and tourism; Ben Bown, second place in accounting applications; Valeria Rodriguez, second place in food marketing; Chris An, second place in sports and entertainment marketing; Jared Liddiard and Gregory Parker Uber, third place in buying and merchandising; Tyler Ball and Harini Srinivasan, third place in fashion merchandising plan; Samuel Campbell, Joshua Han and Hayden Prince, third place in financial operations research; Joshua Han and Hayden Prince, third place in financial services; and Harini Srinivasan and Angie Zheng, third place in hospitality services.

Hillcrest took 52 students to the Feb. 25-26 state contest, and 42 of them qualified for finals. Also at state, sophomore Suraj Ramkumar was named state DECA central region vice president for the next school year. 

Fifty-five Hillcrest students participated in the Jan. 29 regionals, 32 of whom came home as medalists, Merrell said.

“Most of the competitions are role play and they have key indicators on what they have to cover and present. They have to be able to think on their feet,” Merrell said.

Students are given some preparation time — individuals get 10 minutes to prepare, and two-member teams get 30 minutes. Then, as they role-play their presentations, judges may ask questions during or afterward.

Students are also given a 100-question multiple choice test and, with the two-team members, their scores are averaged. The highest-scoring team wins the title.

Sophomore Edward Yuan, who placed fourth at state in buying and merchandising and independent business plan with sophomore Vivek Vankayalapati, said he has appreciated DECA.

“DECA has allowed me to broaden my view to new possible careers that I can pursue after high school, as well as meet new and wonderful people from all over Utah,” he said. “I have definitely learned communication skills and with that, confidence in my public speaking ability. DECA is all about communication and getting your idea across to the judges in a clear and professional way.”

DECA is about teamwork and learning skills that will help them through life, Merrell said.

“They work on their communication and interpersonal skills, such as giving a proper handshake and making eye contact, being professionally dressed, having substance when they speak and be articulate. We kept hearing ‘Hillcrest is the team to beat,’ which is a compliment to these kids who work hard. We have mostly sophomores and juniors — and only three seniors — so our returning team should be good next year,” she said.

But Merrell and the 17 students may be focusing on this year’s nationals, which will be held April 22-27 in Nashville.

“We’re getting together, practicing our role plays, going over tests from previous years, revamping our posters with new designs and making them appear more professional. We’ve had students from previous years come back and give advice, but what’s really great is how these kids are open and help one another. They share the information and give each other feedback. This is their thing and they are working hard so they can be successful,” Merrell said. 

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