Students at the international conference in Atlanta

Keith Jurek

DECA takes on international conference in Atlanta

May 17, 2018

After the success that Orono students had at the district and state conferences, around 20 students traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the International DECA career development conference. The conference was held at the Georgia World Congress Center and took place on April 21-24.

DECA is a non-profit student organization with more than 215,000 members participating from all 50 states, D.C., Canada, China, Germany, Guam, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain.

DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe, according to DECA Inc.

Every year about 18,000 high school students, advisors, businesspersons and alumni gather at the national level conference to develop knowledge and skills for college and careers, according to the International CDC website.

“I loved presenting at nationals because we were competing against people from all over the world, and we got to meet so many new people,” senior Sophie Andrews said.

Keith Jurek has been the Orono DECA advisor for 25 years. His favorite day every year is preliminary competition. He loves talking with students before they go in and after they come out after presenting. It is always a highlight to see how great kids feel after their time with the judges.

Realistically as an advisor, even with such high hopes I only wish for 2 or 3 groups a year to advance to finals. This year we had 6 of 7 teams make finals; I would never expect that”

— Keith Jurek

“We had 20 students go this year, which is more than average. We usually only send about 14-18,” Orono DECA advisor and marketing teacher Keith Jurek said.

Every year the Orono DECA program travels to nationals with the Sauk Rapids DECA program. The students that traveled to the national conference had great success with their projects and presentations.

“Realistically as an advisor, even with such high hopes I only wish for 2 or 3 groups a year to advance to finals. This year we had 6 of 7 teams make finals; I would never expect that,” Jurek said.

Sophie Andrews, Will Larson, and Thomas Lecy received an award for placing second in the nation for their Public Relations Project. Their project was based on Orono’s Unified team and bringing it to more schools in the future.

“Our project was about spreading Unified, which is a branch of special olympics, to other schools. Unified brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team to compete,” Andrews said.

Seniors Natalie Brekken, Rachel Constant and Anna Hughes placed in the top ten at the national conference in the category of Financial Literacy. The seniors worked with the Marketing 1 and DECA students to create “The Real Game of Life” to help them with their future marketing careers.

“We did a financial literacy promotion project which is a chapter project where you essentially try to educate a group of people about financial topics. Our project was called ‘The Real Game of Life’ because we modeled the lessons after the board game,” senior Anna Hughes said. “We chose to do this project because it’s really important to understand the basics of finances before going into the real world.”

Seniors Lilly Peterson, Lily Prine and Jack Randolph worked with Tanglewood Farms Honey this past year, a business started by Orono students, and placed in the top ten for their Entrepreneurship Business Growth Plan Project at the International DECA conference.

Juniors Sarah Michel and Mckenzie Pearson placed in the top 16 with their project in the Hospitality and Tourism Operations Research category. The two were working with the Honey & Mackies restaurant business.

Juniors Jordan Case, Emmett Halloran and Tyler Olson placed in the top 16 at the conference in the Business Services Operations Research category.

Juniors Natalie Brockman, Jack Kubitz and Vivian Rohrer placed in the top ten for their project in the Sports and Entertainment Operations Research category.

Jurek and the other DECA advisors had many fun things planned for all the students to do while in Atlanta. They spent about a week in Atlanta, and on their days off they ran a 5K and even went to a DECA exclusive concert where Andy Grammer was performing, but overall Orono had a very successful week in Atlanta presenting their project that they have been working on for many months.

“Seeing the kids be rewarded for their hard work is the best part of nationals every year,” Jurek said.

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