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The Student News Site of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Eagle Eye News

The Student News Site of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Eagle Eye News

Eric Garner
MSD DECA competitors and seniors Luke Shay and Jonah Strachman sing on stage at the Florida DECA karaoke night on Friday, March 1. Florida DECA attendees were able to attend the karaoke night for free or the silent disco at a $15 fee. Photo permission from Eric Garner.

MSD DECA competes at Florida DECA Career Development Conference

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School DECA chapter attended the Florida DECA Career Development Conference from Thursday, Feb. 29 to Sunday, March 3 in Orlando, Florida. DECA is a worldwide organization for students in high school and college that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

The Florida DECA CDC is a state-level event where DECA students who qualified at the Districts level travel to Orlando to compete in their respective categories. If they place, they qualify for the DECA International Career Development Conference and compete with other DECA ICDC qualifiers from around the world.

The MSD DECA chapter is currently the third largest in the state, with approximately 700 active student members, and sixth in the world in terms of membership. For the 2024 Florida DECA CDC competition, around 300 MSD DECA members qualified and around 228 attended.

Like other chapters, MSD DECA held required after school prep sessions in advisors’ Sharon Cutler and Lisa Webster’s rooms for competitors to work on their selected events, and prep nights in the media center for competitors to practice their presentations.

To give competitors time to prepare for the trip, room assignments, room captains, bus assignments and presentation times were released on the MSD DECA Canvas class on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The day before the trip, Wednesday, Feb. 28, the final states meeting took place where competitors received “Helpful Travel Hints and Reminders” and the trip’s itinerary. Roommates met up with each other, and room captains received Universal Studios chapter shirts to distribute to their roommates.

“There’s a lot of planning that goes on because we’re also getting our students ready for the competition but at the same time we have to make sure that they have housing and buses and since there was 228 students there was a lot of moving parts to get the kids prepared and us ready to leave Stoneman Douglas,” DECA advisor Sharon Cutler said.

At 8:10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 29, MSD DECA competitors were dropped off in front of the auditorium and the buses departed shortly after. The buses then stopped at the Fort Drum Service Plaza on the Florida Turnpike at 11:30 a.m. for lunch and a chapter photo. A few hours later, the buses arrived at the Lake Buena Vista Hilton in Walt Disney World Resort, where Florida DECA held its convention.

Once room keys were distributed, room captains were instructed to pick up materials from the Hospitality Suite for their room, including DECA business folders, competition IDs and lanyards and the 2024 Florida DECA shirt. Afterwards from 5-7 p.m., students could eat dinner wherever they wanted to. Most students opted to go to Disney Springs, accessible via a walking bridge, and were to return before 8 p.m. to prepare for the opening ceremony.

The official opening ceremony was from 8:30-10:30 p.m. where the Florida DECA Team 66 introduced themselves. Performers such as stuntmen and rappers also performed for the audience after official information and chapter awards were distributed.

Friday, March 1 was competition day, and students were responsible for breakfast, lunch and preparing their presentations. Competitors were required to dress in business professional attire, many wearing matching outfits of suits and dresses for team presentations.

From 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., competitors for Team Decision Making, Business Operations Research, Franchise Business Plan, International Business Plan, Integrating Marketing Event, Professional Selling Event and Financial Consulting Event were given time slots to present. From 1-5 p.m., competitors for Individual Decision Making, Principles Events, Project Management Event, Business Growth Plan and Independent Business Plan were given time slots to present.

Competitors in decision making events had one round of presenting where they would receive their prompt and have to create a plan within 15 to 30 minutes. Then they would present it to a judge, and their scoring from their second test and the presentation the day-of determined their placing.

Competitors with 10-page papers had one round of presenting and if called back for a second round were a ICDC qualifier hopeful. Their final presentation the day-of and their re-submitted paper were graded and their scores determined their placing.

Competitors with 20-page papers only presented once and had to wait until the next day to see if they qualified. Their presentation was graded the day-of and the paper’s original grading was combined to determine their placing.

“Me and my group did the Integrated Marketing Campaign Service category, so basically we create a marketing campaign for some sort of service that we chose, it can be any restaurant or anything that provides a service, so we did Let’s Chill Ice Cream, which is local here in Coral Springs,” MSD DECA Director of Social Media Ethan Klein said. “We basically created a 42-day campaign with three main goals.”

After competitors were done with their presentations, they were free to spend the rest of the day however they wanted to. Many students traveled to Disney Springs to shop, dine and walk, while others stayed at the hotel and occupied themselves with the amenities available.

That night, students could select time slots for a Benihana dinner reservation, which was paid by MSD DECA. From 8-11 p.m. Florida DECA hosted a karaoke night in the Grand Ballroom and a silent disco in the International Ballroom, both events having equal amounts of high attendance. Many MSD students attended the karaoke night where MSD DECA advisors Lisa Webster and Sharon Cutler made an appearance on stage together.

Later on in the night, the Hospitality Suite hosted an unofficial Mario Kart competition where the winner went against chaperone and English teacher Laurie Edgar, who won the competition.

On Saturday, March 2, DECA chapters, including MSD DECA, traveled to Universal Orlando Resort before the closing ceremony. When returned, MSD DECA treated MSD advisors, chaperones and competitors to Papa John’s pizza on the pool deck.

“My favorite part is always meeting other people from other schools,” MSD DECA Co-President Carly Rogalla said. “There are a lot of fun events we do like we go to Benihana, we go to karaoke night, we went to Universal Studios, and at all these events, you meet people from all around the state of Florida so that was a really good perk.”

The Awards Ceremony took place from 8-11 p.m., where competitors discovered if they qualified for the DECA ICDC. In business professional attire, competitors attended the ceremony to wait for results or cheer on other competitors.

Screens would show the seven-to-eight teams that qualified for each category, and then those competitors would go to the designated ballrooms. Once at the stage, they would receive a medal and wait until their places were presented to them. Competitors received one “glass” trophy per team, the sizes varying depending on the level of their award.

From MSD DECA, 75 competitors took home glass and medals; six competitors or teams were awarded fourth place glass, four competitors or teams were awarded third place glass, six competitors or teams were awarded second place glass, eight competitors or teams were awarded first place glass. Medals given to competitors had apple pins on them, and students would give those pins to the advisor who contributed the most to their success.

“We felt really good [about our place]; the thing that makes up our score is our test paper and presentation: our test score wasn’t the best unfortunately, but our presentation and paper, those two scores got a 95% total and we actually won fourth place in the entire state,” Klein said. “It was a surreal experience, especially because we didn’t expect it.”

At the end of the night, competitors celebrated, congratulated each other and took many photos. MSD DECA took a group photo on stage after the awards ceremony ended, and competitors were free to do whatever until the 11:30 p.m. curfew.

“We have 75 kids that actually qualified to go to the International competition which is huge,” Cutler said. “Our biggest one wasn’t in the state of Florida, because last year when we were in Florida they gave us extra spots; now we have the challenge of preparing these students for the next step.”

On Sunday, March 3 at 8:30 a.m., a meeting for ICDC qualifiers took place in the Grand Ballroom where Florida DECA Executive Director James Benedict and the newly elected Florida DECA Executive President Paulina Selicorni spoke. Afterwards, rooms were checked for a final time and students took their luggage downstairs and gathered around their chapters.

At 9:30 a.m., MSD DECA departed from the hotel, stopping at noon at the Fort Drum Plaza for lunch and arriving at school at varying times around 2 p.m.

“[I’m excited for] the different memories I’ll be able to make with friends that are going, like my teammates, as well as competing and hopefully placing at ICDC also would be an amazing experience,” Klein said.

Students were greeted by parents, some with balloons and congratulations. Advisors assisted with managing traffic due to the number of competitors who needed to be picked up in the bus loop.

“I definitely look forward to some of the activities we have planned there; we’re going to a lot of theme parks and doing a tour of LA, so I think that’s going to be a lot of fun, and again meeting people from around the world,” Rogalla said. “We’re going to prepare the same way we prepared for states by having competition prep days and mock presentations with judges from the community.”

Around 70 students from MSD DECA decided to commit to attending the DECA ICDC, which MSD DECA will be at from April 26 to May 1 in Anaheim, California. MSD DECA will continue to prepare for their competition with after school prep sessions and one-on-ones with competitors to ensure they are ready to compete and win glass.

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About the Contributor
Anna Horowitz
Anna Horowitz, News Editor
Anna Horowitz is a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a News and Sports Editor for Eagle Eye News. She enjoys reading, listening to music and taking photos as well as immersing herself in unfamiliar topics.
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