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Lake Orion raises the bar on business teachings



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The DECA group poses at the State conference where five winners proved to businessmen and women from around the nation they were good enough for the national competition in Salt Lake City. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
April 25, 2012 - As small business owners pick up the pieces from the recent economic collapse, young business leaders with fresh new ideas are sought after and Lake Orion High School is doing its best to prepare their students for the future.

DECA, a business group at the high school will soon take their best members to a national competition in Salt Lake City. Before that the 56-member group went to two different qualifying competitions where they also performed well.

"It was fantastic - we had another great year," said Marketing, Business Teacher and DECA Advisor Julia Dalrymple. "We had 24 qualify for the state conference out of 35 that chose to compete and another eight that won on the state stage. Then five more are moving on to the international conference in Salt Lake City next week."

The competitions consist of more than just business knowhow and mathematical skill - the judges score contestants on their ability to sell an idea and be memorable. Categories ranging from marketing to communications to financial are all available to chose from before the contest and students are given case studies shortly before meeting with judges to role play their given part.

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In the case of seniors Kyle Wood and Ian Schlitt, the competition was to open a carwash in a wealthy suburban area.

"We came up with a grand opening, who we were going to target in the area with advertising and more," said Wood, who is in his first year at DECA. "At LOHS, we learn a lot from business courses. We really blow them out of the water with statistics and terminology. Schlitt and I also have excellent team work.

"I think the scenarios they put you in here helped to grow my communication skills greatly and I think that will help a lot in the future."

Students get 10 minutes after they get their case study to outline and plan how they will compete their task. While knowledge and accuracy is required, charm and the ability to stand out is also important in the presentation, leading some students to write up small business cards, presentation cue cards and more.

That was the case for senior Laura Turnbull in the regional competition. Her task was to design an DECA application for smart phones and she decided the best way to demonstrate her idea was to draw it.

"By visualizing it we were hoping to make kind of an impression," said Turnbull. "The app had five different categories - one was get to know the council for DECA, another was a calendar, we had a comment area and we had a connect with other DECA members section too.

"DECA really helps you learn to be more professional. It prepares you for interviews and really makes you more outgoing."

Over 3,000 kids from Michigan attended the state conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn. Business people from across the country attended the conference as well and the judges primarily consisted of business men and women whose employees asked them to sit at the competition. Among the sponsors were Men's Warehouse, Finish Line, Marshall's and T.J. Max.

At the end of the day, Dalrymple said DECA helps the kids at the high school and that's good enough for her.

"It teaches them real life skills they will use every single day," she said. "They come out of this confident, responsible and when a kid comes out of a conference with a smile saying 'I nailed that' it becomes the good part for me too. Half the battle is finding out what you like to do and I think DECA helps with that. It's so nice when kid says 'I can't believe I figured out what I want to do.'"

Three new marketing classes will be available at LOHS in 2012: sports and entertainment marketing, fashion marketing and social media marketing.

Dalrymple has taught at the high school for eight years.

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