DECA Competes Nationally


Credit: Dharma Shah

Ben Rodriguez, Carisa Steimle, Dharma Shah and Toren Herrick pose in front of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the national DECA competition in Atlanta, GA.

Puyallup High School has a long history of competing and succeeding at high levels. This year’s DECA students Carisa Steimle and Dharma Shah, both juniors, did not disappoint.

Distributive Education Clubs of America, also known as DECA, is a club that teaches students business and marketing skills. Featuring competitions and conferences, DECA is not for those weary of commitment. With five main competitions in the year, there is a fast-paced schedule full of preparing for your category.

“All DECA students compete in a role play competition at area. There are a few different categories such as travel and tourism, sports and entertainment,” Shah said.

Each category allows students to work either as an individual or a group of two. Role-play competitions are scored as a combination of a marketing test and a real role play situation. Role play situations entail a 30-minute period to read a prompt, followed by a meeting with the judges to present your plan.

“DECA is composed of all three business and marketing classes where we learn about marketing techniques, what goes into creating a business and how to manage a business and interact with customers,” Steimle said.

The other competition type is a manual students create about business. To make it to State for manuals, the manual gets graded and if it receives a high enough score it moves on to State. The top six contestants out of 55 teams at the state competition move on to the national competition. Shah and Steimle were one of the six groups to move on.

“To get to the national level it takes a lot of knowledge of what you are presenting to the judges while also staying confident. If you are presenting with a partner you are expected to speak an equal amount and have cohesive ideas that are unique,” Steimle said.

Shah and Steimle competed in the manual category at nationals. Going to Atlanta to compete, the pair pitched a pie business. They showed up with all the tools they needed for success.

“Carisa and I spent a lot of nights working late to improve our manual, presentation or chance of success for our business. I really think the effort we put in this project showed. We created brochures, business cards, a presentation board with a spinning logo and a binder filled with all of our plans for the business,” Shah said.

All of this work was rewarding and paid off big time. Although the girls felt questionably about their presentation, they were shocked when they were not awarded in the top 20. Flying home and getting back into the normal routine at school, both Shah and Steimle let go of their loss. Recently, they received shocking news.

“Up until last week, Dharma and I had completely moved on. Last Thursday, Mrs. Root told us that the executive director of DECA had emailed her saying they made a mistake and that Dharma and I actually had placed in the top 20 in the nation,” Steimle said. “Because we were not able to continue on to the top 10, DECA is now paying for our whole trip to nationals next year in Florida.”

Perhaps the most unexpected part of their experience was their difficulty in connecting with their competitors. Going to nationals was a new experience, according to Steimle.

“Trying to make conversation and discuss our business ideas with a majority of our male competitors proved to be more difficult than we thought. Many chose to give us blank stares instead of the usual friendly response,” Steimle said.

Despite hardships with competitors and the long hours spent preparing for competition, both girls agree it is all worth it.

“It is so worth it to balance school, sports and DECA — it is something that brings me a lot of joy and excitement. Through DECA I was able to meet one of my best friends and we got to spend so much quality time together,” Shah said.

Moving on from their success this year, both girls plan to run for the positions of President and Vice President.

“Next year I am looking to be the DECA Vice President. What excites me most about this position is the opportunity to create a community service project. President and Vice President also set up fundraisers and events for DECA students to participate in,” Steimle said.

Along with Shah and Steimle, juniors Toren Herrick and Ben Rodriguez also competed at nationals. Sending four students to Atlanta to compete this year, PHS DECA reflected well on the school.