MHS DECA takes the stage at Lawrence Tech


MHS DECA students before leaving for Lawrence Tech (Photo courtesy of Kaye Sommer)

Riley Coesens, Managing Editor

Nervous excitement accompanied students as they boarded the bus on Friday, Dec. 13. The group was part of Milford’s business club (DECA) and was headed to Lawrence Tech University for the district competition, where members had the opportunity to advance to the state competition that will be held this March in Detroit.

DECA allows students to practice business-setting etiquette and scenarios while gaining experience and further understanding of dozens of potential career paths. “DECA has taught me to think on my feet and has made it easier for me to talk to people… it teaches you real life skills,” said Junior Claire Adams.

Students who participate may either compete with a roleplay or written event, as well as stock market games and advancement projects. During a roleplay, an individual or team of students are given a problem related to the chosen event and must improvise under time constraints to create a solution. This is similar to what one might experience during job interviews, and prioritizes quick analysis and responses. Written events cover a broad range of topics, but allow for creativity and learning to prosper over a longer period of time. All DECA students are part of at least one business class at MHS, which better prepares them for roleplay and written events in which many choose to participate. The best performers advance to States, and potentially even Internationals.

Before these young minds had the chance to take the stage, they practiced role plays and test questions for hours. MHS offers students involved in DECA access to Competition University, which was added at Milford this past fall. This program provides useful analysis and feedback on topics presented in everyday situations, particularly in the four fields DECA encompasses: marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. On this website, participants have the ability to review past test questions, familiarize themselves with common terms and concepts, and study for future business exams. This, in addition to Milford’s past strengths in roleplay abilities, contributed to 40 MHS students receiving red, white, and blue medals at districts, and moving on to states. Of the three medals available, this is the most desirable; others include a blue medal, recognizing high achieving test scores, and a yellow medals honor high-scoring roleplay competitors. Students must receive at least the multi-colored medal in order to move on, but others add value to their performance and rank going into states.

As Chapter Advisor at MHS for 25 years, Kaye Sommer has seen hundreds of students flourish and become critical, creative thinkers. She recognizes that many students choose not to join because they do not plan on doing anything business-related after high school; regardless, she, as well as dozens of past and current members, urges students to take this opportunity. As said by Senior Alexis Camilleri, who made it to ICDCs (International Career Development Conference) in 2019, “Just do it, you never know what could happen. Even if you don’t want to go into business, it’s good practice for interviews.”

Though some have had tremendous success with roleplay and written events alike, others are just beginning their DECA journey. Steven Grigereit, a senior at MHS, joined this past fall. “I’ve learned how to present under pressure,” he stated, “and that even with losing, a lesson can be learned.”

Being put into situations that force a person to think quickly and confidently express him/herself is vital for future communications, interviews, and jobs. In addition to this, Sommer explained the many other benefits to joining DECA, such as developing teamwork and group presentation skills, business knowledge and vocabulary, community service awareness, business travel, etiquette, and communication skills.  For her, it also encourages students to stay up to date on business’ expectations for incoming employees and provides challenges that allow young adults to explore their options.

DECA also provides students another enjoyable social opportunity. MHS’ chapter travels frequently, taking trips to Detroit for annual Pistons and Tigers games, as well as States, Cedar Point in May, and New York every other year. Some students were persuaded to join by older siblings, friends, or Mrs. Sommer; others, like Senior Brenden Coesens, joined originally to go ride rollercoasters with his friends.

For many upperclassmen, being involved in the business world at a young age has established potential career options in the future. “Doing DECA made me realize how much I love business and is responsible for my choice of minoring in business management [in college],” Coesens said, Similarly, Grigereit stated, “[DECA] reinforced my plan to become a businessman.”

During the program’s beginning at MHS, only 10 students competed at States; this year, Milford has 40 top performers venturing to Detroit, in addition to numerous written event competitors. Every year, Sommer aims to send 40 to 50 percent of her chapter to States; far more have committed themselves and prepared to succeed, and will prove their dedication in March.

Despite Milford’s wins at the district competition, improvement is still necessary to continue prosperity at states, and in Nashville, Tennessee for ICDCs. According to Sommer, three primary changes must be advanced in order for a higher level of success to be achieved: improving test scores, with the implementation of Competition University, practicing presentation skills, and increasing participation in community service activities.

Current DECA President Anna Fischer, a 2019 ICDC competitor with partner Camilleri, understands the impact DECA has on her own future, and the lives of future entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and leaders. Overall, competitions offer a unique perspective on engaging with people from a variety of different backgrounds, as well as like-minded individuals from across the globe. “DECA has shaped me as a leader,” she said. “DECA allows me the opportunity to explore a ton of areas of interest and use the knowledge I’ve learned to make me a more well-rounded person and to make a tangible impact on the world around me.”