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23 DECA kids qualify for intl. competition

The Oxford High School DECA Club is sending 23 of its members to compete at an international conference in Anaheim, California April 23-28. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
March 20, 2013 - Twenty-three Oxford High School students are heading to Anaheim, California next month.

But they're not going there to soak up the sunshine and party hard for spring break.

They're going there to compete at the DECA International Career Development Conference set for April 23-28.

"I'm so proud of the kids," said Steve Ruch, OHS teacher and advisor to the school's DECA Club.

DECA is an international association of high school and college students who are preparing for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. There are 185,000 members in 5,000 high schools.

Twenty-three of the 28 OHS club members who participated in DECA's state competition, held over the weekend in Grand Rapids, qualified to move on to the international competition.

"It's not the largest group, but it is the highest percentage of kids we've ever taken (to the international competition). I've never had 23 out of 28 before," said Ruch, who noted the club's been competing since 1997.

Qualifiers for the international competition are Madisyn Barsanti, Lindsay Beck, Courtney Bocquet, Bethany Dewey, Jessica Downs, Gabrielle Fallis, Alyssa Ford, Savannah Fullmer, Miranda Kucemba, Madison Maier, Abigale Marion, Samantha Medici, Haley Mince, Rachel Moses, Breeze Muscarella, Lauralei Pariseau, Jenna Saigh, Molly Schultz, Kimberly Sellers, Savannah Speed, Samantha Teague, Alaina Terzo and Jasmine Thomas.

They will be among the 14,000 high school students, advisors, business people and alumni who gather annually at the international conference. Most are there to compete, but many will participate in a variety of leadership and career advancing academies.

Ruch was astounded by how much time and effort the OHS club members have devoted to their projects since September.

"Even if they didn't have the best written project entered, they worked really, really hard on their presentations," he said.

None of them had a problem staying after school for hours on end to keep working.

"I had to tell them, 'Look guys, I've got to go home. It's six o'clock. I've got to get some dinner,'" Ruch said. "They still want to work. They're taking their stuff home with them."

He said "without a doubt" this is one of the most dedicated clubs he's ever overseen.

When asked who stood out in his opinion, Ruch replied, "Two groups did extremely well in their particular areas."

The first was the public relations project spearheaded by Miranda Kucemba, Molly Schultz and Samantha Teague. They helped bring the Challenge Day program to OHS. It's designed to reduce teasing and bullying, teach the tools necessary for peaceful conflict resolution, and inspire teens and adults to work together as forces for positive change.

The other group consisted of Samantha Medici and Madisyn Barsanti, who did an entrepreneurship promotion project. They worked with the Oxford Downtown Development Authority to make a free presentation to local businesses on how to effectively utilize social media. They also taught basic entrepreneurial concepts to Oxford Middle School students.

Ruch was particularly proud of those groups that consistently showed improvement right up to the state competition. "Courtney Bocquet, Alaina Terzo, Breeze Muscarella and Jessica Downs – from where they were in September to where they were when they presented (at the state competition), they were just completely different kids," he said.

"That's really the pleasure for me – watching kids develop, become better writers, become more confident presenters and learn skills that they're going to be able to take and apply at the next level in college."

Although they didn't qualify for the international competition, three OHS students did earn honors at the state competition. They were Dominic Biolchini, Rachel Furlong and Tristan Taraski.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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