Peninsula High DECA members Andrew Campbell, Sara Undem, Austin Stewart, Natasha Dinniman, Casey Reynolds Wagner, Sky Parker, Sofia Esteve and Payge Palagyi are on their way to take on national competition in Nashville, Tennessee, April 23-28.
DECA: Distributive Education Clubs of America.
“DECA is a national club that develops student entrepreneurial and leadership skills,” said John Selfors, Peninsula High’s College and Career Readiness Marketing/DECA advisor. “It’s rewarding to empower my students with these skills and watch them go out and make a difference.”
“DECA is great for building leadership skills,” said Campbell, a senior and DECA’s VP of Leadership. “I’m introverted so its helped me step up and be more involved and vocal. I’m excited to experience a place I’ve never been. We’ll attend Thrive Leadership Academy to become better leaders and more independent. These skills will help me at Washington State University Honors College next fall.”
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Classmate and DECA President Sara Undem, a leader on the PHS cheer team, is part of DECA because “it’s fun, educational, and will help me prepare for my future. I’m excited to meet people from all over the country with my same interests. A fun thing we’ll do in Nashville is attend the Grande Ole Opry.”
Undem’s parents are paying for her trip to Nationals. She will attend the University of Washington in the fall to study business.
Wagner, a sophomore, worked with several local businesses to help fund and lower costs of his trip.
“My team’s ability that got us to Nationals is working the stock market, a simulation running of real prices,” he said. “We bought, planned and sold stocks with a specific amount of fake money to invest over a period of four months. We ended up in 14th place of over 4,000 teams. The top 25 teams will be our competition at Nationals. We hope it will help us gain admission to our colleges of choice.”
Classmate Stewart said, “My parents were supportive and able to pay for the trip. They are proud that I am interested and able to be a part of the DECA program and of the experience we are gaining from this. I went through a very tough competition that consumed a large part of my time both inside and out of class!”
“This DECA trip is so important, my entire family contributed to make sure I don’t miss it,” said Dinniman, a junior. “I’ll attend Leadership Academy and a series of service events called ‘Chapter Campaign.’ I do cheerleading for PHS and hope to attend a four-year university to study marketing and fashion merchandising.”
Sophomore Parker is in DECA because it’s both fun and educational.
“I’m excited to do something bigger than I’ve ever done before,” Parker said. “I’m amazed and grateful we’ve made it this far. I have earned my way working with Communities In Schools, whose coordinator, Wendy Wojtanowicz, has been a huge help in making this happen. She arranged jobs I could do to help raise funds and then an anonymous person helped with my trip: A huge, wonderful surprise.”
Esteve, a junior, DECA VP of Hospitality, said, “I love DECA because it has given me so many wonderful opportunities and taught me so much. I love seeing changes throughout the school and community because of work we do. I can’t wait for Nashville so I can learn more and bond with my DECA chapter.”
As the group’s advisor, Selfors’ focus is for his students to develop character, service and leadership through their community service efforts. This year PHS DECA raised more than $8,000 for local charities and collected over 4,200 food items for Backpack 4 Kids. One project, Hoops for Hope, raised more than $3,700 for the scholarship funds of Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools.
Hoops for Hope won first place at Washington DECA’s state competition, earning the team a trip to Orlando to compete at the International Career Development Conference. In June 2016, Selfors will present at DECA’s AMPED Conference in Charlotte.
Since it was founded in 1946, DECA has impacted more than 10 million students, educators, school administrators and business professionals. DECA uses latest technology and cutting edge educational research.
I propose that DECA’s next task be to convince the State Legislature to honor the state Supreme Court’s order to fund education. Go for it!
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.