Many students join competitive sports when they enter high school. But a different kind of competition has nearly one quarter of the student body at a local high school participating.
These students are part of a program called DECA. High schools across Sammamish participate in DECA, and Skyline High School boasts Washington state’s largest chapter with more than 500 students in the club as of 2022.
DECA is a nonprofit career and technical student organization focused on letting students in high school and college experience the business world through hands-on, interactive competition. There are over 177,000 members internationally.
DECA’s high school chapters are organized into local areas. Skyline and Eastside Catholic belong to Area 4, which encompasses a section of King County. They compete with other high schools such as Liberty, Interlake, and The Overlake School.
The first level of competition at DECA are the area conferences, where students compete in various events that require them to exercise skills seen in a professional business setting. Those that do well at DECA Area move on to DECA State Career Development Conference (SCDC). Top qualifiers will then go to DECA’s International Career Development Conference (ICDC).
Skyline went to the Area 4 competition on Jan. 6 in Bellevue, Washington. Those who did extremely well in their event are moving on to Washington state’s SCDC, which is currently taking place through March 4 in Bellevue. Among Skyline’s participants, 301 students are attending SCDC.
Although events vary from competition to competition, one of the primary events that beginning DECA competitors do is a roleplay. Roleplays are where a student assumes a role in business and works to complete a task such as developing a financial plan. They present their work to judges, who score competitors on their ability to demonstrate business knowledge.
Roleplays are about “how well you sell your ideas,” said Dishitaa Jain, a Skyline sophomore and first-year DECA participant.
Jain quickly grew to love DECA as competition season commenced. The event she participated in at the Area 4 conference was a roleplay focused on hospitality and tourism. In this event, Jain was tasked with completing marketing and management functions that appear in traditional hospitality settings like hotels and lodging services.
“Everyone was all jittery and excited,” Jain said.
As someone who had never been to a DECA competition, Jain recalled being “terrified” beforehand.
Fellow first-year DECA student Manu Gopal felt similarly. The Skyline sophomore said the Area 4 conference was “really stressful but really fun.”
“DECA is good knowledge to have [and] it’s fun to see how I’ve grown,” said Gopal, who participated in a roleplay surrounding marketing in the food industry.
Both Gopal and Jain remembered the chaos of their first DECA event. The opening ceremony was delayed, and as a result some event times had to be rescheduled.
Despite the challenges and nerves, Gopal and Jain are both planning to continue with DECA as they enjoyed the experience.
“You have a lot of opportunities to really immerse yourself in it,” Jain said.