Bearden DECA students learning real world business skills as they prepare for state competition


Jami Aylor

Bearden’s DECA students will participate in the state competition later this week.

DECA is an international club for high schools and colleges that encourages a real world perspective and enriches educational opportunities for business oriented students. Each Bearden DECA student competing in a role play event qualified for the state competition in March, marking an outstanding accomplishment for the Bearden DECA program.

For many students, their event is focused on a “role play”, where they take on the perspective of a business professional in an industry they are interested in. They prepare for these with practice role play events and tests.

Senior Hampton Gerken, who plans to major in finance at Tennessee, placed first in the state for his DECA competition. Although this is the first year he has been a member of DECA, he outranked every other “Principles of Finance” role play competitor in the regional competition. 

“I just want to be able to learn more about the financial world,” Gerken said. “There is so much to learn, and I’m hoping to gain some valuable introductory knowledge before going into college. 

“Principles of Finance covers the financial aspect of the business. In my event, [I] pretended to be a financial planner and had to assist with [my] clients.”

Placing first in his competition, Gerken will be traveling to the state competition from Thursday through Saturday alongside 19 other Bearden students.

“I’ll keep reading up on the role play events,” Gerken said. “I’ll probably do a couple more practice tests and focus on how I went through the actual role play for Regionals.

“I think DECA is a great organization. It is really fun. It can be nerve-wracking at first, and I was definitely nervous for my event, but it is very interesting. There is so much to work for and you can get so much out of it, and that’s really fun.”

The scope that DECA covers extends beyond role play events and financial competitions. The career clusters for competitions include business management and administration, entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality and tourism, marketing, and personal financial literacy. With a total of 27 competitions for role plays and an additional 32 in written events, this club offers opportunities to students with many interests. Students can also compete individually or in small groups.

The written competitions, which are supervised by Mrs. Tricia Leslie, consist of a more detailed written submission than role play events, but do not require any grading before advancing to the state level. Junior Will Mead competed in the written event called “Buying and Merchandising Operations Research Event” with his two partners, junior Libby DeRieux and junior Claire Radcliffe.

“Our document was about 20 pages, which included our table of contents and appendix,” Mead said. “In this event, we were tasked with researching a business and solving a problem that could arise in the future for this business.

“The event I chose to compete in was one of the more involved ones. My group worked on it from October to December gathering information and writing the paper. Libby spent even more time after formatting it and adding graphics and other important parts of the project.”

As this group advances to the state competition in Chattanooga, they will prepare a presentation that goes alongside their 20-page document. The students that travel for this competition will also have a chance to network with fellow DECA students across Tennessee, improve their presentation skills, and work together toward nationals.

The Bearden DECA club has two sponsors: Mrs. Leslie and Coach Adam Dyer. While Coach Dyer takes responsibility for the role play competitors and prepares them for their competitions, Mrs. Leslie focuses on the written submissions. She edits papers and business plans, helps students work on their presentations, and submits their finished projects.

“I have been a DECA Advisor for 20 years,” Mrs. Leslie said. “I started out in Indiana DECA and then became part of Farragut DECA. Then, this year after moving to BHS I am helping Mr. Dyer with Bearden DECA.”

National DECA Competitions this year will take place April 22-25 in Orlando.

“[DECA] really helps students develop a love for business and marketing and helps them make college and career decisions,” Mrs. Leslie said. “There are also leadership and networking opportunities that students can take advantage of to help them develop skills and even get scholarships.

“Most importantly, I think that it helps students get jobs even while in high school. So many businesses know DECA and will hire DECA students because they know DECA kids will be professional and have business knowledge.”