DECA Dominates at 2020 Regionals

With 19 winners and five honorable mentions, DECA seems unstoppable.

Jessica Hsu

From Monday, Nov. 30, to Friday, Dec. 4, Brentwood High School participated in the DECA Regionals. Brentwood students performed exceptionally well this year, with over half the membership of DECA placing high in their respective events, with 19 top winners and five honorable mentions. An incentive gift was also given to the top scorers, courtesy of Mrs. McNamara, DECA’s club advisor.  

DECA, otherwise known as the Distributive Education Clubs of America, is an international business association formed by high school and college students from all over the world. The club aims to prepare new leaders and entrepreneurs by instilling values of competenceintegrityteamwork, and innovation through involvement in academic meetings and competitions. Members can develop skills in communication, problem-solving, and leadership while also gaining a better understanding of how businesses operate in the real world.  

At regionals, students were able to choose to participate in competitive events from the different career clusters of marketing, business management and administration, finance, entrepreneurship, hospitality and tourism, along with personal financial literacy. For a month, they learned the necessary information professionals apply to their daily work independently and collaboratively with officers in weekly study sessions.  

The Arrow newspaper had the opportunity to interview Mrs. McNamara on the necessary transitions DECA made given the pandemic, the recent achievements of the club members, and the progress DECA has made in its committed membership. Additionally, new club president Julia Spadaro also shared her personal experiences in leading a club she has seen grow for the past three years.    

Q: What inspired you to take on the role of club advisor to DECA at Brentwood High School?

McNamara: I had been a DECA advisor prior to coming to BHS in another school district. DECA itself has a long, proud history at Brentwood High School. Many of the teachers and administrators who work in the district had been members during their time as students at BHS. Since DECA hadn’t been a club for several years, I was thrilled to be able to bring it back. I love that DECA promotes continued business studies for students and allows them to shine in additional ways beyond the classroom. It provides an opportunity for students to learn new skills that they will use far beyond high school. I also serve as the Suffolk County representative on the New York DECA Board of Trustees. One of the roles of the Board is to plan the State Conference each year.

Q: What were your goals for this club in the beginning?

McNamara: My goal is that students have an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of business concepts and how these will interact in all areas of their lives. I enjoy the camaraderie of students working together outside of the classroom toward common goals.

Q: How has the club progressed over the years?

McNamara: In the past three years the club has continued to grow in popularity. We began three years ago with only 13 students and 2 regional winners. The past two years we have grown to 39 members with an increasing number of regional and state winners. This is a direct result of the student members who have moved into leadership positions and shared their DECA passion with new members. Student leadership has developed multiple ways to engage members both academically and socially – but distanced. It is truly a studentdriven club.

Q: In what ways has this year been different due to the pandemic?

McNamara: Sadly, we have only been able to meet virtually. Our competitions have been forced to go virtual as well. I feel that it has been difficult for members to fully experience what DECA is besides exams: attending regionals and competing against 1,500 Suffolk County students who gather in the gymnasium to see if they placed in their competition; traveling to the State Conference to compete against 2,500 from across the state and proving that BHS students are the best; moving on to Nationals to compete against 18,000 students from around the globe; or the simple act of meeting, eating Chik-Fil-A, laughing and collaborating as a group. These activities are incredible teambuilding experiences. They allow everyone to grow beyond their usual comfort levels.

Q: What are the official parameters of the DECA exams?

McNamara: DECA exams are 100 multiple choice questions. Exams can vary from Principles of Business Management & Administration, Personal Financial Literacy to Accounting and Business Services. Beyond the exam, at the state and national levels, students must present a role-play. Students are provided with a scenario of which they have 10 minutes to prepare an answer. They then must present their findings to a judge who will also ask them questions based on the scenario and the students’ response.

Q: What do you think of the team’s recent Regional performance?

McNamara: I cannot be prouder of all the members’ regional performances. I know that everyone did their best to prepare and excel on their individual exam. I could not ask for anything more. 

Q: What are your expectations or hopes for DECA in the future? 

McNamara: I hope to continue to grow the membership and competition participation each year. I want to be sure that students have a foundation in business that will take them beyond graduation. Additionally, I will work on an initiative to develop exams in multiple languages to allow all students to further excel. 

DECA members proudly display the sign of their student club. (Avaril McNamara)

Q: So Julia, who initially encouraged you to join DECA? 

Spadaro: I initially wanted to join DECA because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career or study in college. I was interested in joining a new club with the possibility of meeting new friends, getting to understand more about business, and becoming a leader in the club. I joined when I was in 10th grade so I knew I would have 3 years to be involved in the club and achieve all of my goals for myself within the club. Ms. McNamara also urged me to join because I was in her Accounting class, doing very well, and she saw potential in me to be a good competitor and leader for DECA.

Q: How has your experience in the club been as a whole? 

Spadaro: DECA has been one of the main factors that has shaped me into who I am today and I absolutely cherish all of the experiences I have had over the last few years. There are always ups and downs, with ICDC (International Career Development Conference) getting cancelled last year due to the pandemic. With a missed year of ICDC the year before, you learn to appreciate the ups even more. Our experiences at the state competition are the most special to me. Both my first and second year at states was exciting. You get to spend a few days upstate meeting new people with similar interests from all over the state, all while getting closer to members from Brentwood. Winning competitions has been so fun and fulfilling to me and I am so happy I am able to share my experiences with the underclassmen each year. 

Q: What preparations or work did you do in particular this year to ensure the smooth running of the club?

Spadaro: I worked alongside the officer team endlessly all summer to make sure we had enough virtual resources in order to ensure the smooth running of the club this year. All nine of us with the help of Mrs. McNamara put together our own website which we made from scratch, learned how to use TEAMS effectively, and created a club Instagram page to keep in touch with members. We had to upload tons of competition preparation materials online and we had to reach out to students who were prospective members all through online means, which was challenging to say the least. We all knew this year would bring extra challenges, but I can say I was so proud of all of the officers in their efforts to make sure we were able to have an extremely successful start to the year! 

Q: Are there any words of encouragement you can give to DECA and its members going forward?

Spadaro: I just want to say that I encourage all of the current and future DECA members to always remember to have fun and step outside your comfort zones. DECA has taught me much more beyond business; it has been an influential part in my career search and understanding myself. DECA competitions can become difficult but all of your hard work will never go unnoticed or to waste. There is so much that DECA, and many other clubs at Brentwood High School, have to offer and I encourage students to try new things in order for them to reach their full potential. 

With such high marks at regionals, endless possibilities await DECA’s members as they move on to the state competition