DECA Team Makes 'Statement' at First Event

DECA-team.jpgIt took some convincing, but Central Methodist University DECA advisor Dave Hickman eventually agreed to take his brand-new team of students to its first Collegiate DECA competition.

It won’t take any convincing the next time around.

“I tend to be a very cautious individual – I didn’t want to go,” Hickman said of the February 27-28 competition at the Missouri Career Development Conference. “I said, ‘No, we’re not ready, it’s too early,’ and [the students] said, ‘Let’s just go, it’ll be a great learning experience.’ So, we did, and they were right.”

CMU’s first team of competitors didn’t just go to learn, though. They went to compete. And the team – Quizonte Falls, Leah Smith, Andrea Montoya, Da’Viona Bonner, Grady Mattson, and DECA president Rachel Smith – “made a statement,” in Hickman’s words.

The team took home three awards from the state-wide competition, held at the Lake of the Ozarks’ Lodge of the Four Seasons. They finished third as a team in the quiz bowl, while R. Smith finished with the best score in the test portion of the Hotel and Lodging event. Another highlight of the competition was the third-place finish by Mattson and R. Smith in the Event Planning group event, which earned them the right to compete at the International Career Development Conference (ICDC).

Hickman hopes the early success for the team will be a big deal for the chapter and for the business department at CMU as a whole.

“There are a lot of things I’m excited about with DECA, but I think that this could do a lot of good for the business program,” he said. “I think it could do a lot of good for Central. It’s obviously doing a lot of good for these kids.”

Much of that good comes from getting as close to real-world experience as possible, Hickman says. Simulating real situations in a management class, for example, can be more difficult than doing hands-on learning in, say, a biology class.

“The best part about the [DECA] competitive piece is that it gives them a way to actually apply what they’re doing in the classroom,” Hickman said. “In the business world, that’s really hard to do.”

He hopes that the implementation of the new program will be a draw to CMU for the nearly 8,000 Missouri high school students involved in DECA already, stating, “Those that are in DECA love it, and they’ve been begging us to have it for a long time.”

As far as his more short-term expectations for ICDC, to be held in Atlanta on April 22-25, Hickman says he and the two students will likely treat it similarly to the state competition.

“We went to State with no expectations other than to gain the experience. That’s mostly our plan for ICDC,” he said. He added, however, that the team now has “a taste for it,” and would love to place again, but with likely more than 150 teams competing it would be more difficult.

In the meantime, the Smith and Mattson duo will continue preparing for the event by doing mock presentations and other forms of practice. Hickman pointed out that the pair hadn’t had much time to do so before the state competition, as Smith had recruited Mattson just a few weeks before the trip.

“I don’t think they even practiced. They just did it off the cuff when they got there, and they placed,” said the advisor. “I thought, ‘What would happen if you actually practiced?’”

Time will tell what will happen at the next competition, but in addition to preparing for their event, the students and other DECA members are now working to fund the trip. As a self-funded program, the DECA organization at Central relies on donations and fundraisers to operate – for the day-to-day needs as well as its campus events and big trips. Anyone with a desire to contribute is invited to contact Hickman ( or 660-248-6336) or reach out on the club’s social media pages.

Any contributions will help make the trip to Atlanta possible and give CMU students the opportunity to gain even more experience that will make them successful in the workplace.

“They want to do well [at ICDC], and I think they will do well. But beyond that, the point of DECA is to practice that stuff and get those experiences,” said Hickman. “We know we’re going to get that, so it’s going to be a success no matter what.”

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