Decking the top 10
Junior becomes first Hebron student to place top 10 at the DECA International Career Development Conference
May 22, 2023
It was only his first year in DECA, but junior Randy Song became the first Hebron student to place top 10 in the U.S. for Principles of Hospitality and Tourism at the DECA International Career Development Conference.
DECA allows for students to become leaders within different business-related careers such as finance, marketing and management. There are three tiers to the competition; the first tier in January is the lowest level of competition at the Urban Convention Center. People who do well move on to the state competition, which was in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole this year.
Students can then move on to internationals in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center. Within internationals, there are two rounds of competition: preliminaries and the finalist round. If you win preliminaries, you win medals and advance to finals, and if you place top three in the finalist round, you get a trophy.
“The reason I joined [DECA] is because a lot of my friends told me that we could go on trips together,” Song said. “In all honesty, for [the] district [competition], I didn’t prepare at all and, out of sheer luck, I got by [to state]. For state, I remember taking a lot of practice tests to try and get a higher score [and] I [also] did that for internationals. [For] the roleplay events, I remember practicing a lot of those things.”
Song, in total, competed in three written tests and three roleplay events. Roleplay is when the judge gives competitors a sheet of paper with a business scenario on it and competitors have to come up with a solution in 10 minutes and present to the judge. Written tests include vocabulary words and other business related terms.
“I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed [when I won top 10], because I was hoping for a top three placement [since they get] a big trophy,” Song said. “But, I ended up placing in the top 10 so I was happy with that. I know some of my friends that also came, they were trying to place [and] didn’t make it, so it was a little sad. But I guess it’s a special thing [to win the award].”
Marketing teacher and DECA sponsor Sherry Gowarty said she is proud of Song’s determination in being able to place top 10 at internationals even though it was his first year in DECA.
“[I was so] beyond thrilled and excited,” Gowarty said. “Our entire team just erupted with applause and high fives; it was exciting to see [Song] charge the stage and claim that victory. [Song is] laser focused on what he needs to do, such as understanding an outline of what it takes to succeed in a particular category. His laser focus, attention to detail, unwavering dedication to understanding his event, his subject matter and motivation [helped him win].”
Song said he hopes to major in computer science, but DECA has helped him broaden his horizon to potentially pursue a career in business. He also enjoyed competing, which is why he joined the Future Health Professionals club and made it to state, as well as the Technology Student Association.
“I think competing is a great experience,” Song said. “Before DECA, I was really scared that I wasn’t good at talking to or presenting in front of new people. But while I was competing and moving through the levels of competition, I feel like I got really good at that — and I was able to showcase that at the international level, so I think it really helped me in developing my speaking skills.”
Song’s friend, junior Swayam Rath, said Song’s focus helps him in all aspects of his life. With different activities Song is in such as HOSA, TSA and his hobby of going to the gym, Rath said Song is able to manage everything through self discipline.
“[Song is] really committed to his goals and whatever he sets his mind [to],” Rath said. “I know he really cares about DECA and he puts in a lot of work to succeed, so it’s good to see that pay off for him. Once he plans something, he makes strict schedules for himself, and really follows. He’s really stringent about that and that kind of translates to other parts of his life as well. I’m sure he had an organized study schedule with DECA and worked hard prior to the event in order to succeed the way he did.”
Song said he was nervous at first in getting in front of the audience and receiving the award, but he was overall happy with his award.
“It was just mind blowing,” Song said. “So many people [were] in there [and] it felt like [I was] in the middle of a swarm. Whenever you get your name called up, you go to the middle of the room, where there’s a big podium and a stage setup [and] walk up and receive your awards. Being up there on the stage, it felt like everybody was looking at me — [which] was a little bit [nerve wracking] but it was [still] a great, great feeling.”