Italian foreign exchange student Francesco Calia said DECA forced him to expand his repertoire of English.
“Speaking English in a business way is difficult,” he said.
Yet he, along with his classmates, have enjoyed a year of triumph, learning and successes at DECA competitions and conferences.
DECA (formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America), is an association at the high school and collegiate levels that teaches the concepts of marketing, management and entrepreneurship to students.
At Payson High School, the DECA program, run by Joe Parone, has a reputation throughout Arizona for producing top achievers.
“We had four kids place in the top 20,” said Parone.
Nick McMullen, a senior who has spent every year of his high school career in DECA, said he still faces challenges when he competes, just as Calia did.
“Overcoming the nerves to prepare for an interview,” he said, presented his greatest hurdle.
Karen Williams, also a long-time DECA student, said she struggles with managing her time at competitions so she can get everything done.
When at a competition, the DECA team participates in three different events: the individual role-play, the team event, and the case study where students must write a business plan. Parone said each student has a strength that guides their choice of competition, but he also trains them.
“We practice handling situations,” said Parone. He drills his students on what they will face during the competitions.
However this year, Parone threw his students into a situation neither he nor they had ever handled before, training a school newly joining the ranks of DECA.
“We did a workshop in Chinle in November,” said Parone.
He said because the state DECA officers are in Phoenix, they asked Payson to train the new students since the school sits so much closer to Chinle.
“It (Chinle) was pretty far away for them,” said Parone.
The Payson DECA students said they drew on a lot of past experiences to train the Chinle students.
“If you can teach it, you understand the material,” said McMullen.
When asked what they felt was the greatest part of the training experience, McMullen said he enjoyed watching the kids grow and understand the material, while Kayla Percell said she was proud of the results.
“We helped…kids who were less experienced than us…(and) one took home five awards,” she said.
The DECA students also helped their local community. Parone said November is DECA month, so to celebrate, the class had weekly contests and events for the high school.
“We hid DECA diamonds around the campus,” said Parone. “When kids found them, we gave them a piece of candy.”
Jesse Barry said DECA held an open house for the younger students to help them understand what the program is about.
The group also raised money to help the St. Vincent de Paul food bank give out turkeys for Thanksgiving — a very ethical program.
The class said they are actually judged on ethics during competitions.
“Business ethics is in a lot of things we do,” said Parone.
“It’s about giving back to the community,” said McMullen.
But the students all said the icing on the cake for the month of November was the Western Regional Leadership Conference in Phoenix.
The students said they enjoyed the workshops and got to meet new people.
“I like those trips,” said Jesse Barry. “There are lots of people and I made lots of connections.”
For Calia, he said he got good practice with his English.
“Even if it (English) was a barrier, I got a good scene in the role play,” he said as the Payson Culinary Arts students brought over some gelato for his opinion.
“They ask him to try a lot of their creations,” said Parone.
On Jan. 21, 2014 Payson DECA competed at the Arizona DECA Central District Conference. 42 Payson DECA Chapter members competed against approximately 800 other students from 14 high schools.
Payson DECA won 25 awards at the conference. The following students won awards: Role plays medals: Nick McMullen, Kayla Percell, Priya Bhakta, Jesus Apodaca, Ernesto Hendrix, Karen Williams, Maria Ontiveros, Kaylie Olsen, Chelsea Reffner, Arissa Paulson, Taryn North, Gerardo Moceri, Veronica Volk, Anna Schouten, Sandra Lewinson and Janelle Slightam;
Winning written test medals: Nick McMullen, Kayla Percell, Jesus Apocaca, Ernesto Hendrix, Karen Williams and Anna Schouten;
Winning medals for overall excellence: Nick McMullen, Karen Williams and Anna Schouten.