Pictured Left to right:(top row) Forrest Scharmer, Will Gregoire, Angela Schwaigert, Riya Patel, Brandon  Philbrick, Cody Yu. (bottom row) Michaela Britt, Avni Nahar, Sammy Smith, Neerja Patel

DECA Chapter Wins Big at States

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Thursday March 29, 2012

It’s no longer business as usual at South Burlington High School.  Students interested in expanding their learning opportunities in the fields of marketing, finance, hospitality and management recently formed a chapter of the international business organization DECA. In March, ten members put their newly acquired business skills to the test, competing at the DECA State Competition in Burlington, taking half of the first place honors and qualifying for the DECA International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Salt Lake City, Utah in April.
According to DECA, the organization helps high school students prepare for college and careers through co-curricular programs that integrate into classroom instruction, applying learning in the context of business, connecting to business and the community and promoting competition. Members leverage their DECA experience to become academically prepared, community oriented, professionally responsible, experienced leaders.

Founder and President of the South Burlington DECA chapter, Riya Patel, says she, like many fellow SB students, has an interest in business, but is eager for real world experiences which go beyond the lessons taught in the classroom. 

“It’s a great way to learn about business before they actually have to start paying for learning about business,” said DECA adviser Lynn Amey, a part-time business teacher at SBHS with 16 years in the district.

With little time, and limited resources due to the lack of first-year funding, students prepared for the state competition by exploring the DECA website for direction on test taking, interviewing, and role play.  Considered underdogs in a competition among nearly 200 opponents from Vermont high schools—many whom receive expanded business curriculum through technical centers—the young, inexperienced South Burlington team surprised by earning top finishes or honorable mention in each competitive event category.

“My kids were amazing,” Amey said. “I’m very proud.”

“The competition helped me develop some skills to help me think on my feet,” shared Patel who claimed first place overall in the marketing communications event with partner, Avni Nahar.  “I definitely learned more about what the business world is about.”

Aside from competition, the students enjoyed fun activities and social events which provided networking opportunities with their peers.  First place finishers were presented scholarship awards.

“The competition was fun,” said the first place overall winner in the hotel and lodging management event, Forrest Scharmer, 16. “It inspired me to do the best I could and enlightened me to how important knowing all the business stuff is.” 

On April 28, more than 15,000 high school students will gather for the DECA International Conference.  South Burlington students, all juniors except for sophomores Neerja Patel and Sammy Smith, may be the best hope for Vermont to place at the national level.  

“I’m hoping to get some kind of award,” Scharmer said. “I’ll push myself to try and do well.”

To help fund ICDC travel expenses estimated at $900 per student, DECA is seeking sponsorship from the local business community.  Contact Lynn Amey at South Burlington High School at lamey@sbschools.net or 652-7017 to make an investment in the future of these emerging leaders and entrepreneurs.

SOURCE: Lisa Osbahr, Correspondent