'The real world'

DECA gives members business experience

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Its name -- Distributive Education Clubs of America -- doesn't inspire enthusiasm.

Its actions do.

The co-curricular club takes marketing and business education and makes it fun, as well as profitable, for students. Members sponsor and publicize dances, basketball games and lip sync contests, as well as run the school store.

"Running the school-based store is how we put our skills to work," DECA advisor Eric Unglaub said.

The program is self-sufficient to the point that students who work in DECA's store get paid $6 a hour.

"It's a good recruiting tool," Unglaub said. "When you treat it like it's a job, it adds a little credibility."

To be part of DECA, students must enroll in the high school's marketing class. It's fun, Unglaub said. This weekend, the students' homework is the watch the Superbowl and evaluate the commercials.

"It's a fun subject and a fun topic," he said. "You've got to get the kids excited about it."

In DECA, students learn skills that help them in two arenas, real life and competition.

Competition

Eight DECA students will be going to the state competition in Denver -- the same eight who had a banner showing last week when they pushed the Moffat County team to a first-place finish at the Jeffco Open. Of the team, Jeremy Rollins and Amanda Cramer earned first for earning the most points overall. Rollins got the third highest test score out of 45 students, and Monica Shaeffer and Michelle Hardin took second place in role playing.

DECA competition is made up of four components -- three written tests and a role-playing activity. Students choose their specialty from categories such as hospitality, retail, sports and entertainment and tourism and travel, and they are tested on business and marketing strategies in those industries. They also take tests.

Then, they're given a topic and 20 minutes to prepare a presentation. How to best use retail space to be attractive and efficient is a potential scenario.

"It's kind of like speech," Unglaub said. "You can have the best speech in the world, and it doesn't matter if you don't add excitement and creativity."

There will be about 700 students competing at state.

"It's going to be pretty ruthless," Unglaub said.

But, the rewards may be worth it.

The top three finishers in each category win a berth to nationals in Disneyland.

Using the proceeds of a Perkin's Fund grant, Unglaub has set aside enough money so that he and the club's incoming president can attend.

"It's a good marketing tool because then that person comes back all pumped up," Unglaub said.

The club will pay for the trip for any other members who qualify.

Real life

DECA members are gearing up for their annual Sweetheart Dance, which last year raised $1,700 before expenses.

Although the money helps fund the program, it's not the bottom line.

"The money is actually irrelevant," Unglaub said. "It's the experience they get. I tell them, this is like the real world."

Amanda Cramer, who is this year's DECA president initiated a new activity for the club. She worked with Centennial Mall Manager Vicki Hall to coordinate visits with Santa Claus. The club earned money by dressing as Santa and selling pictures of the children who came with their wish lists. They used the $800 they earned to buy toys and Christmas dinners for several families in need.

This year, Cramer is the president of the club, which she says is just getting its footing after several turbulent years. The school's been through four DECA teachers in five years.

There's been a lot of instability for the last four years," she said. "It was really hard to get a program going and solid. We're trying to get more people aware of the program and get it running smoothly."

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