For most, working under pressure is a daunting, anxiety-inducing endeavor. Those who participate in Distributed Education Clubs of America, however, have spent the school year practicing with constant pressure over their heads. The motivated students ventured out to Orlando, Florida for the largest international competition DECA has ever seen.

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Nine LHS DECA members participated in a five-day trip to compete in Orlando Florida at the international competition. This particular competition is the largest yet, as 22,000 students from all around the world were set to compete at the event. Each category had approximately 200 international teams and individuals, and only the top 10 percent of the competitors advanced to finals. Although LHS DECA did not advance to finals, every member was awarded a Certificate of Excellence, which is only given to those who placed in the upper half of the competition.

Senior Cindy Kirkman went into competition under the Marketing Communications project.

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“My favorite part of it all was being around people who are all so like-minded and so motivated being there. When you get to internationals you know that everyone is passionate about DECA and you are surrounded by a lot of people with really good energy,” said Kirkman.

Kirkman also added that even though her immediate plans after high school are not to go into business, she made sure to note that DECA has taught her skills that she knows will help her go far in the professional world.

Junior Macey Kenna’s project for internationals was a role-play in Bistro and Food Service Management. During role plays, students are given a hypothetical scenario that they have to work through in a limited amount of time in order to follow certain business protocol.

“When we go to take our tests, we sit down in our categories and you are in this big section with all of these people from several different countries all over the world. You just get to meet so many different people and see how DECA is in other states and countries,” said Kenna.

Freshman Abby Thomas’ category for DECA was Marketing Management and Team Decision.

“We’re always better in competition than in practice. We do so well under pressure, and it is kind of cool to see what you can do when you are under that type of pressure,” said Thomas.

Thomas plans on doing DECA for all four years of high school to pursue her interest in business and communications.

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Freshman Ella Taylor partnered with Abby Thomas in the same division. Her favorite part being in competition was the wide range of people that she was able to meet.

“The amount of diversity was amazing, there were people from all over the country and from other countries. We actually got to talk to someone from Spain. It was really cool to just meet so many other people,” said Taylor.

Taylor said she was eager about going back to internationals next year in Nashville since her experience this year was so positive.

“Going in at first we were a little nervous because it is a big deal and there are a ton of people, but when Abby and I did our first role-play we felt really good about it, and it was one of the best ones we have ever done. We were really happy with our work,” said Taylor.

Sophomore Khushi Patel’s project was a team decision making project with Hospitality and Tourism Services. Her favorite part of the competition was the presentation, which she personally thought her and her partner Natalie Dafoe excelled in.

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“We were there, and we were there to win. After the competition we figured out what we could have done better and where we had flaws, but we were one-hundred percent confident about how we did,” said Patel.

Next year, Patel is in it to win it. She says that her main goal is to get up on the stage as one of the finalists, and she has complete faith that the team can accomplish that.

Sophomore Natalie Dafoe’s project was Hospitality Team Division. She mostly works in roleplays that are geared toward improving a certain tourism industry.

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“They brought in speakers and entertainers. There was this one specific speaker who gave us this extremely motivational speech about how he just created a bucket list once, and from there as soon as he wrote something down he would make it a reality. I feel like having that right before the competition made us do better,” said Dafoe.

Natalie said that she and her partner Khushi Patel did better than they ever had. She noted that she would give everyone’s performance a ten out of ten.

“Competing was more comfortable than I thought it would be. It was a relief because I had expected to put everything we had practiced for on the line,” said Dafoe.

Sophomore Matthew Keith took part in the individual series of Sports and Entertainment Marketing. His favorite part of the competition was talking to lots of different people from around the world.

“Even just the small things, like comparing driver’s licenses, was so different. It’s interesting to see all of the differences between Indiana and other states and countries,” said Keith.

Next year, Keith plans to work and prepare year-round to insure his spot in DECA next year, and he plans to go a lot farther in competition.

“Personally, I think I did my best given the situation, but I hope to do better next time. There is always room for improvement,” said Keith.

Freshman Addison Cupka competed in the individual series for Hotel and Lodging Management, where she completed two role-plays and a written test. At the end of the competition, she received a medallion for her division and was able to go up on stage.

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“Everybody that was there was all working so hard. We would go in, there would be so much adrenaline, you would take your test and all of a sudden you were done,” said Cupka.

“I was nervous at first, but the judge I had was super sweet and she would always laugh along with me, so after I was done I was really at ease and felt good about how I did,” said Cupka.

Cupka’s goal next year is to go back to internationals and get the glass, since she already made it up on the stage.

Junior Molly Garner wrote a business growth plan for the competition, which she has been working on since November of last year. She competed against high schoolers who own their own businesses as she presented a plan to further her clothing business.

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“Meeting all of the high schoolers from around the world was surreal. The kids from Spain asked us how we ate the food here because everything in the U.S. is so processed compared to everywhere else. Everything was just kind of an eye-opener, it was insane,” said Garner.

Garner mentioned that DECA was one of her biggest motivators to pursue entrepreneurship.

“DECA is literally the most life-changing club ever. The past three years we have progressed an insane amount. It’s absolutely crazy how much we have all grown as a team and as a club,” said Garner.

Garner plans on doing role-plays next year, as she thinks it will be a refreshing change of pace.

Each member had something positive to say about the way everybody performed. For such a hard competition, everyone was impressed with themselves and their teammates.

“For being such a young group, I think we did really well. I feel like everybody went in motivated and genuinely did their best. I know everyone walked out feeling satisfied,” said Kirkman.

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“It was definitely the best we have ever done. Everyone at Internationals is so good though, we were just happy to be there, even if we did not make finals,” said Thomas.

A favorite among the DECA members was the escape from the rainy Indiana to the Sunshine State.

“Cindy and I went to a place called Voodoo Donuts, and I got a glazed donut called the Texas Donut. It was literally the size of my face, and it was the happiest day of my life,” said Kenna.

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“I always say being in the Sunny State always helps the state of mind,” said Kenna.

The members noted that the weather while they were there was more than ideal, and they spent a lot of the free time they had lounging at their hotel pool. They also spent a lot of their time at the City Walk and DECA even rented out Universal Parks for the 22,000 students.

“There was a beautiful concert going on at Universal, which was so cool,” said Garner.

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“Our free time felt like a whole other vacation,” said Taylor.

The DECA team is more than eager to make it to internationals in Nashville, Tennessee next year, and they all hope that it will be a resounding success like their first international competition.

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Pictures provided by Matthew Keith, Molly Garner, Khushi Patel, Ella Taylor, Natalie Dafoe, and Cindy Kirkman.