After years of not being active at Northeast High School, the DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) program has returned at full force to offer new learning opportunities for students. DECA, which is a program that focuses on developing business and leadership skills through competitions and leadership conferences, picked up momentum at Northeast when Andrew Corrao came to the school in 2020.
Corraro, CTE (career and technical education) professor, reactivated the program in 2021 when students returned to the classrooms after being online due to the pandemic. Since it reemerged, the program has more than doubled from eight competing students to over 25 currently.
When asked about the school’s journey to the state competition, Corrao says that the journey truly began two years ago when the decision was made to bring the program back. “The plan was to take the first two years to figure out how to run and build a program like DECA at an urban school and then really drive at winning competitions the third year,” Corrao said. “However our students surpassed our expectations and made a run at state the past two years.”
In order to prepare the students for the competitions and academic conferences, DECA fundamentals and content are incorporated in the classrooms. From there, students in business or marketing classes are recruited to participate in the competitions. At the competitions, students are given 10-15 minutes to review a scenario and come up with a solution to the problem involving executive business decisions, business law or marketing. Other students also compete by providing presentations on sale pitches or research projects.
“This year we have over 25 students competing in the district tournament with five of them qualifying to participate in the state tournament. We are very fortunate to have the support of the district, school and CTE department. These investments in programs like DECA are crucial in teaching our students that not only do they have a right to be just as involved as their suburban peers, but that they can compete and beat them,” said Corrao.
Currently, the school has 5% of its total population involved with DECA, a percentage they want to maintain and grow. In addition to being able to compete against local schools and participate in the state tournament if they qualify, students can go on trips to other cities within the country to participate in academic conferences. Recently, six students traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to participate in the Central Region Leadership Conference, where they had the opportunity to network and compete with students from around the country.
“I think of the learning opportunities that come with being on a plane for the first time to travel to Milwaukee and Boston. We have students who went on that trip that have never been outside of the KC metro, let alone on an airplane,” Andrew Kreilling, DECA advisor and business professor, said. “I hear students elaborate how this field trip gave them a better understanding of how the big picture looks, or that field trip informs them more on something that we work on in the classroom.”
Through the program, students have been able to improve their interviewing skills, presentations and work ethic as well as create new networks and friendships. As the students continue preparations for the state tournament, Corrao says it would not be possible to give the students this opportunity without the support of the community.
“From parents, to alumni, to people who just happened to hear about our program, our students feel the support. They know that their results are not only a win for them, but for the school and the entire community and we couldn’t be more proud of them.”