Homestead students win DECA state awards

Homestead DECA team competed in the State Career Development Conference where 15 students received awards for their respective events. Pictured are some of the students in the organization.

Fifteen Homestead Distributive Education Clubs of America students, now known as DECA, received awards in their respective events at the virtual State Career Development Conference.

Thirteen students have been competing in the virtual International Career Development Conference that runs from April 12 through May 6. Students from the United States and nine other countries have been competing.

Homestead business and marketing teacher Brian McNeal has been the DECA coordinator for 26 years and explained more about how the club and competition works.

“DECA is an association of marketing students,” McNeal said. “Students compete in a variety of marketing-type competitions. Some of them are a role play over a specific topic. Some students are competing in a written paper. They actually submitted their idea for a business plan or a start-up business or growing your business. Then they present their ideas to a panel of judges.”

For the role-play events, the students are given a situation and a specific amount of time to figure out how they would handle that situation. Then their ideas are presented to a panel of judges. Students also take a 100-question marketing test depending on which category they chose. There are approximately 40 categories available including accounting, finance, hospitality tourism, retail and business law.

McNeal said he usually supervises approximately 120 students, but this year he only had 40 students in the group because of COVID-19. He said he usually takes between 60-80 students to the state competition, but this year only 30 competed in the virtual event.

The International DECA Career Conference is also a virtual competition this year and works similarly to the state competition. Students were given instructions and deadlines to submit their entries.

If these Homestead students make it to the final round of their categories, their competition will happen live on a Zoom video.

McNeal said students who participate in DECA learn valuable skills they can use after high school.

“They learn interview skills, interaction, interpersonal skills, being able to communicate concisely and being able to convey your thoughts to a group of people,” McNeal said.

DECA students have worked with local businesses such as Vera Bradley and DeBrand Fine Chocolates.

“I had one young lady that worked at DeBrand’ss Chocolate, and she met with the owner, and they came up with a plan to open a DeBrands Chocolate in Dubai,” McNeal said. “So they were doing an international business plan. They actually made chocolate that they would sell in Dubai as a sample for the kids. It was pretty awesome.”

He said the students competed well this year. Two students especially made an impression. One is junior Malia Sanghvi.

“She’s my president of the Homestead group, and she ran and is a state officer as well,” McNeal said. “She’s a great example of someone who does well within the organization.”

Sanghvi said even though this year’s state competition was different than previous years, she still had a great time at the event. She is competing in the international competition for the second year.

Her role-play events are in personal financial literacy, which delves into wealth management and personal finance.

“I think that there is solid information to be learned from the events themselves that you compete in, as well as the sense of community,” Sanghvi said. “There is networking everywhere. Especially when you are there in person, you are immersed in an environment with like-minded people who are all very friendly and willing to communicate. It’s always a really fun time. It’s almost like being an adult while still being in high school.”

Sanghvi explained her position as a state officer for DECA.

“This is my second year as the chapter officer,” Sanghvi said. “I am currently the chapter president. However, the state convention also has its officer team, and I was elected as one of 11 representatives for the state of Indiana on their officer team. I am the vice president of technology communications for the state, which means that for this coming year, 2021-2022, I will be part of the team that plans the state convention.”

She said she and her team would also help update the state delegation, plan the fall leadership conference and be the primary liaison between the state and state members. She also was able to vote for the national convention’s leaders.

“It feels really good,” Sanghvi said about her leadership positions. “I really love the organization itself. It’s great to be able to serve the rest of Indiana DECA. I’ve always looked up to the state officers... It’s an honor to be part of a great team full of great people.”

After high school, Sanghvi said she plans to earn her degree in finance or economics.

Another is junior Lauren Cabe, who qualified for the international competition the past two years. Her events are in retail merchandising. McNeal explained that she did well on her testing and role-play events.

“She’s done really well because you have to think on your feet,” McNeal said. “She’s a great young lady.”

Cabe has been involved with DECA since her freshman year and enjoyed this year’s competition. She won state awards in both role-play events and a competency award for doing well on her written test. This earned her first place in her retail merchandising event.

Both of her parents are doctors, but she knew this was not the course she wanted to take.

“I’ve never been interested in the medical field, but my parents had some people who knew about DECA, and they told me maybe I should try that out,” Cabe said. “I really had no knowledge of business at all, so I thought I would join just for fun and see how it went. After my first competition, I absolutely fell in love with it.”

She loves the creativity the organization brings, and it also helped shape her career goals. She plans on majoring in business or communications in college and hopes to attend Northwestern University.

“Since my event is in marketing, I’ve definitely found that marketing is one of my newfound passions, so I hopefully want to go into that or even entrepreneurship,” Cabe said.

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