Eleven Oregon High School students were among the DECA participants at International Career Development Conference, held April 26-29 in Anaheim, Cal.

The conference hosts the organization’s annual competition, where several students earned top national finishes.

Three OHS students garnered third-place honors: Sara Christenson in Principles of Business Management and Administration, and Karina Sande and Maddie Fitzgerald in Community Service Plan. Kim Gerhmann placed in the top 20 for Business Services Marketing. OHS teacher and DECA advisor John Curkovic said having four national finalists who made it to the last round of competition was “amazing.”

“The process of elimination is tough — 200,000 members and the best of the best competing from around the world,” he said. “Each can claim to be one of the top 20 high school students in the nation in the marketing field. We are all super proud of everybody’s accomplishments — students represented themselves and Oregon High School in an exceptional way.”

William Gerlach and Ryan Detra also competed in Sports and Entertainment Marketing and Apparel & Accessories Marketing, respectively. Mason Breitzke, Natalie Ganshert, Grayden Gruchow, Anna Michalski and Jenna Sharkus attended leadership workshops at the event.

Preparing leaders

Curkovic said the OHS marketing class, along with DECA, “prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, leadership, finance, hospitality and management.”

“DECA enhances the preparation for college and careers by providing co-curricular programs that integrate classroom instruction apply learning while connecting to business activities and promote competition,” he said in an email to the Observer.

Detra said the conference was the “biggest event during my high school career” and called competing against hundreds of other DECA students “definitely a rush.”

“From the opening sessions to competition to closing session, competition is in every aspect,” he said.

Detra said participating in DECA has “definitely been beneficial” to his career planning.

“I highly recommend DECA for anyone who is unsure of what they want to do or someone who wants to build interview skills,” he said.

Gerlach, in his third and final year in the DECA program, competed in his first national competition this year after garnering first-place finishes at district and state competition. While he didn’t take home a medal, he was proud to compete “against the best in the world in my event” of Sports and Entertainment Marketing.

“What I experienced surpassed any medal I could have won,” he wrote in an email to the Observer. “I learned to never give up. I learned to persevere through your losing streaks. If I were to have stopped competing after my first two years of never making it to the state competition, I would have never had the opportunity to compete at internationals.”

Gerlach said he “truly appreciates” everything he’s learned in his three years with DECA.

“If I could pass a single message down to those who are just beginning their time in DECA or even to those who are striving for something, my message would be to keep going,” he said. “You may not succeed your first try. But, if you keep working and keep pushing you will finally push through.”

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.

OHS DECA National competitors

Name Honor Event
Sara Christenson Third place Principles of Business Mgmt/administration
Karina Sande Third place Community service plan
Maddie Fitzgerald Third place Community service plan
Kimberly Gehrmann Top 20 Business Services Marketing
William Gerlach Competitive representative Sports and Entertainment Marketing
Ryan Detra Competitive representative Apparel & Accessories Marketing