DECA is a worldwide student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. With over 220,000 high school students, its written exams and oral cases are highly competitive, especially on the international level.

MGCI had one sole representative, Grade 9 Ryan Lin, who competed on the international level of DECA, ICDC, otherwise known as International Career Development Conference. He qualified for the conference by competing in the Provincials and achieving top ten in his category, Principles of Marketing. Qualifying DECA participants from the USA, Ontario, Manitoba, Spain, Guam, and China gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for one week, writing one or two business exams and presenting two oral cases. As usual, DECA Ontario was present to “crush American dreams” with 370 students competing with 17,000 others.

On 30 April, DECA Ontario traveled to Atlanta by the means of a grueling 21-hour bus ride. Ryan, along with DECA Ontario, shared the Hilton Atlanta Hotel with students from Washington and California. “So basically,” Ryan explained, “All we had in those 24 hours were McDonalds, coffee, and candy.”

To prepare, DECA Ontario met every night, briefed by Olga Plagianakos, the provincial advisor. 1 May to 3 May was packed with preparation and some social bonding. The opening ceremony was held in Georgia Stadium on 3 May with DECA Ontario chanting all the way through.

The written exam was held the following day at 9:00 am in the Conference Center. The exam had questions related to marketing operations, management, human resources, and the integrity of a business. The preliminary oral case event was held on 5 May. Everyone is given a series of questions related to a fictional business related story. In Ryan’s single person event, one had ten minutes to prepare and ten minutes to present their analysis to two judges, selected business professionals in Atlanta. There were ten groups of twenty and only the top two in each group would qualify for the next oral round.

Those who qualified for the next oral event was announced on 6 May in the mini-award ceremony. Ryan managed to win an award for top ten in exams, and top two for his twenty person group. The second oral event was held that same day. It asked to define the effects of marketing and how it relates to the economy. “I didn’t do that well in oral but my written pulled it [overall mark] up.” described Ryan. Later that same day, the grand award ceremony was held. Awards were given to top ten finalists and trophies given to top three. Ryan was awarded as a top ten in his Principles of Marketing group of 200 students.

DECA ICDC closing ceremony

DECA ICDC closing ceremony. Photo courtesy of Ryan Lin.

7 May was the day of celebration. DECA Ontario toured the headquarters of CNN, the Coke Museum, and held a prom later in the evening. It concluded at 11PM with the bus leaving at 12:30AM. Ryan and DECA Ontario were home in Toronto on 8 May.

Overall, both Ryan and DECA Ontario were very successful as the 370 students brought home 420 awards and 38 trophies, more than a third of the total awards. “This experience definitely made me more confident,” says Ryan, “I met people all over the states and made some very good friends in just a week’s time.” Combined with all the southern food, tours, and people, the DECA competition was just a fraction of a grand experience. It was time and money well spent.