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For the first time in the school’s history, three iSchool High of Montgomery the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) chapter members competed in the State Career Development Conference. Competing against about 50 other students in the state, Robert Snell a senior at iSchool High of Montgomery was a finalist.

With more than 215,000 members worldwide, DECA offers high school and college students an opportunity to explore careers in business and marketing by providing competitive events, community service, professional development and leadership opportunities.

Justin Tumalad, the school’s chapter coordinator, believes branching out to participate in the competitive events in addition to the community service and fundraising events has helped his students think about their future.

“DECA is very student-driven because the goal is to develop leaders. However, competing really helps them grow in self-confidence and communications skills as well as learning to apply concepts they have learned,” said Mr. Tumalad.

The three students competed in two different divisions based on how many years they had been DECA members. They all had to take a written exam to test their knowledge of the industry. They then participated in role-playing events where they applied their knowledge to real life situations in front of an industry expert.

As a second-year member, senior Robert Snell, competed in Retail Merchandising, while sophomore Mariam Michalak and freshman Christian Valle as first year members competed in Principles of Marketing.

“It really helped me learn to think on my feet. Presenting something you just looked at and then giving an intelligent answer and responding to questions was a lot harder than I would have thought. I learned a lot about retail merchandising. I never realized just how much is involved,” said Robert.

Mariam was intimidated when she arrived at the event, but when it was over she had grown in confidence and was excited for the next competition.

“I was really nervous because I had this idea of stuffy business people, and I am just a country girl who normally dresses in boots, jeans and flannel. What I found was a family that wanted you to learn and have fun. All the judges I had were really kind. They told me both what I was good at and what I need to improve on. I walked away feeling confident,” said Mariam.

With meetings every other week, community service projects and fundraising events, DECA is a time commitment outside of many students already busy dual credit schedules, but Mariam finds it fits well with iSchool High’s early college focus.

“I think DECA complements iSchool High really well because while iSchool is preparing me for the college world, DECA is giving me experience in the business world,” she said.

As the student president of the DECA chapter at iSchool High of Montgomery, Robert has taken his leadership role seriously and worked on ways to expand the chapter.

“When I first joined we were mostly focused on community service. Being a competitive person I campaigned on getting our chapter into competitions. There is still a lot of growth possible in that area, but next year the club also hopes to start student based enterprises which gives students the experience of running their own business,” said Robert.

Being part of DECA has also inspired many of the students to start thinking about starting their own business. Mariam already has an idea for growing the pet sitting she does into a business.

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