By Cara L. Dempski
GLENWOOD CITY — There is a group of 46 students at Glenwood City High School whose goal is to learn as much as possible about building and marketing successful businesses.
The 2016 – 2017 school year has brought a host of new members to the Glenwood DECA team, which is something both advisor Carrie Hentz and president Kaylie Scalze seem very pleased about.
“Something I’ve been really proud of is, in the last two years, we’ve achieved the diamond-level status for a DECA chapter,” Hentz said.
In order to win a diamond-level award, a DECA chapter must increase its membership by 20% during the year. The Glenwood City chapter has accomplished the feat in 2015 and 2016.
With the consistent increase in membership and the new school store that is staffed and managed by DECA members and students in Hentz’s business education classes, the Glenwood City chapter of the organization is definitely thriving.
Scalze is a senior and taking part in her final year of activities and programs with DECA, but said the lessons she has learned through participation in the organization have already been useful to her. She has seen the group continuously grow since her first involvement in it as a high school freshman.
Hentz introduced DECA to Glenwood City High School during the 2010 – 2011 academic year after speaking with the student members of the Future Business Leaders of America. The FBLA offers many of the same experiences DECA does, but also expands into computer science, web designs, public speaking skills, and working with Microsoft Office programs.
The group agreed to make the switch, and has been participating in community service projects and competitions ever since.
“I was in DECA in high school, and I would say it is the reason I became a teacher,” Hentz explained. “Specifically, a marketing and business teacher.”
Scalze said her involvement with DECA changed her career path from dreams of working in Hollywood to serving as a creative director for a major fashion corporation or publication.
“My major pipe-dream job is to work as a creative director for a magazine like Vogue,” Scalze said.
The high school senior has already made her mark on local businesses, beating out college students for an event-planning internship with local venue Birch Hill Barn.
She gave all the credit for her success in the job to DECA.
DECA (formerly known as the Distributive Education Clubs of America) was founded in 1947. It is an international association of students and instructors in marketing, management, and entrepreneurship in the areas of business, finance, hospitality and tourism, and marketing sales and service.
The organization’s website said it prepares leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in education, marketing, finance, hospitality, and other areas of business. Chapters can be found in all 50 states and in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Spain, South Korea, China, Turkey, and Hong Kong. Members compete at district, state, and international levels using skills and knowledge gained from real-life work experiences and educational seminars offered by DECA.
There are high school, collegiate, alumni and professional divisions available. The alumni and professional divisions are comprised of prior competitors who wish to help new DECA members or those who have become business professionals and are interested in helping a new generation learn.
High-school level participants compete individually or as part of a team. Individual events include a 100-question cluster exam about the competitor’s chosen topic, and one to two role-play presentations. The competitor is scored based on the exam score and performance in the role-playing sessions. Team presentations are very similar, but do have some small differences.
Each team must be comprised of two members of a DECA chapter. Each member is given a 100-question exam and scored individually. The team also receives a decision-making case study involving a problem in the business or career area the team is focusing on. The team has to accomplish seven performance indicators in its role-play, and judges evaluations the team’s role-play based on the tasks.
Judges are allowed to ask follow-up questions, and uses a 100-point scale to grade the team’s performance. The presentation is scored at twice the value of the exam scores.
Last year, Scalze and another Glenwood City DECA member completed a team project. The duo earned 49 points out of 50 on the exam, and scored 87 out of 100 on the presentation.
This year, she and many of her teammates are competing as individuals.
Scalze and 17 of her teammates traveled to the District 1 competition held at UW – Stout on January 7. Of the students who attended, 10 walked away with medals or trophies.
“Schools travel from Superior, LaCrosse, Hudson, all sorts of places,” Hentz said. “Close to 650 students competed at this year’s District.”
Students who place first or second in events advance to the state level, which is held annually at the Grand Geneva resort in Lake Geneva. This year’s competition is scheduled for March 7 – 9 and will include seven members of the Glenwood City chapter.
The participants who do well at the state competition will head to Anaheim, California, April 26 – 29 for the International Career Development Conference. Scalze said she is excited about the prospect of attending and learning even more to help her in her future career.
“I like to travel, and I like to meet new people and network,” Scalze stated.
DECA at GCHS
Hentz said the new school store opened the week after Homecoming 2016 and had been planned as part of the referendum work completed over the summer.
“(Superintendent) Tim Johnson and I had several conversations about opening a school store and having some sort of tie-in with the marketing and business classes,” Hentz explained. “Now we have an opportunity for DECA students to apply what they learn.”
Scalze is the store manager and maintains daily, weekly, and monthly sales records to determine the store’s needs. The business is staffed by DECA members and students in Hentz’s classes and is open during lunch period and after school until 4 p.m.
The duo started with a small budget, and wanted to offer high-quality items for Glenwood City fans, which Scalze said is a pretty limited group. There have been a few bright spots in the few months the store has been open.
“There were a couple events that we were not anticipating that led to an increased amount in sales,” Hentz said.
She and Scalze said Grandparents’ Day and the Elementary Christmas Concerts left them scrambling to find people to staff the store during the day because so many people wanted to purchase items.
The money generated by the school store is used to fund DECA events and trips, but is not the chapter’s only work in the school.
DECA focuses on community service, and Scalze learned about holding a “wish week” event during one of her recent trips to the Emerging Leaders Conference held in Wisconsin Dells.
The event was held November 28 through December 2, 2016, and featured a different activity each day to raise money for MDA and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Monday was professional dress day, where students were encouraged to wear business professional clothes in exchange for a special treat, a DECA cookie, which is given out to DECA members at each meeting.
Tuesday saw DECA members in every high school homeroom with buckets, ready to collect everyone’s spare change in the “Miracle Minute.” School administrators played a song over the high school PA system for one minute while the DECA members raced around each homeroom to collect change. At the end of the minute, the students had raised $201.03 for MDA.
On Wednesday, teachers could wear jeans for a $1 donation, and students could wear hats for the same amount. The DECA chapter raised another $78 that way. Thursday, to get everyone into the Christmas spirit, was ugly Christmas sweater day, and saw some colorful garments to celebrate the season.
Friday finished the Wish Week celebration. Teachers and students were encouraged to wear blue for DECA and Topper pride. There was also a “Tape-a-Teacher” competition between Mr. Ketola and Mr. Kieper. A photograph of each teacher was put on a large jar, and students donated to the jar for the teacher they most wanted to see duct-taped to the lunchroom wall.
Every dollar donated would equal one strip of duct tape. Mr. Kieper lost the competition, and during the Friday lunch period, students lined up to use 90 pieces of duct tape to secure him to the wall.
Throughout the week, students also wrote letters to Santa Claus to be given to Macy’s. For every letter written, the department store chain would donate $1 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Scalze reported the Glenwood City students wrote 605 letters that week.
The total funds raised during “Wish Week” were $975.79.
Scalze and Hentz said they both hope the new traditions introduced to the school and community this year can continue. Scalze said she is not planning on participating in DECA at a college level, but knows she has been given great opportunities to work on her future through the organization.