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For Montague students, DECA is about networking and new experiences

School’s group of emerging leaders and entrepreneuers headed to California later this month.

MONTAGUE – By Theresa Dean’s definition, DECA is an international organization that has a goal of preparing emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for college and careers.

“Ultimately, DECA prepares students with 21st Century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and communication skills,” said Dean, who has been Montague High School’s DECA advisor since she became a full-time teacher in the district in 2014.

For Santiago Perales and other Montague students, being part of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) means more than skills or competitions although those things do open doors to what really matters to them: Experiences and meeting others with common interests and career goals. In other words, it’s about networking.

“It is a chance for you to emerge yourself as a young entrepreneur and build a connection with the many other young entrepreneurs around you,” said Perales, who is director of communications for DECA.

Montague’s DECA group is getting the opportunity of a lifetime this month, when it heads to Anaheim, Calif., to compete in the national convention. It is scheduled for April 27-May 1 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Montague DECA members Jordyn Tolan and Jordan Netcott are beyond excited for the upcoming trip.

“It’s a great experience for anyone who is able to go if they make it past state. Overall, it’s so much fun,” said Tolan, who is DECA president. “There’s a lot of opportunities. It’s not just all about DECA, like, projects and stuff – it’s also about bringing a lot of community and, overall, just making a lot of friends when you’re there.”

Said Netcott: “I’ve never been to California, so that’ll be new for me. I’m just really excited because I feel like Montague – we’re not super small, but we’re a decently small school – and to get us anywhere that’s like past the state of Michigan is pretty impressive.”

Photos courtesy of Montague High School

On March 14-16, Montague DECA competed in the state convention with more than 4,000 Michigan DECA members at the Huntington Convention Center in downtown Detroit.

The following groups from Montague DECA are moving on to the national competition:

  • Riley Mulder and Jack Degen for Retail Operations – School-Based Enterprise;
  • Netcott and Ava Pelton for Food Operations – School-Based Enterprise;
  • Charlotte Stuart in Retail Merchandising;
  • Kamryn Cooper and Autumn Phipps, who earned Thrive Level and attended the Thrive Academy.

Danel Katrenova and Bianca Florea earned a medal for their Franchise Business Plan, although the duo was not a finalist to move on to the national convention.

Dean received a plaque at the state convention for her 10th year as a DECA advisor.

Competitions and conventions, as well as other routine DECA activities, help to enhance students’ leadership skills. They are put in project management positions, being involved with events such as the Pink Out football game and the pop can fund-raiser, registering vehicles at Cruz’In, hosting a table at the White Lake Holiday Walk, and hosting a winter holiday dance for Montague High School students.

Students may apply to be a school store manager or worker during lunch. Montague DECA also has an officer team consisting of a president, vice president of membership, director of finance, director of communications, and vice president of publicity and social media.

Netcott is a store manager at the school.

“At Montague we have a store and we sell food and, like, merchandise that has our logo and stuff on it. For us, we sell during lunch and gets a lot of business because, like, who doesn’t want a snack during lunch that’s a little bit better than our cafeteria food?” Netcott said with a smile. “And also during sporting events, we sell shirts – anything, really. We sell water bottles.”

Tolan noted that Montague’s DECA program is embedded in the high school’s marketing class, which is taught by Dean.

According to Dean, every student enrolled in a marketing class has their dues paid. Montague has 72 DECA members this school year in three total marketing courses. Those numbers are similar to previous years. Numbers were down during COVID, Dean said.

“You don’t have to compete, but you get all the same knowledge, you get all the same opportunities as just someone from the club and it just helps bring a lot of learning into the classes about management and businesses,” she said.

Dean completed her student-teaching in 2008 under Tim Todd, who was the founder of Montague DECA. After Todd retired, Dean interviewed for his position in 2014. She’s been an advisor ever since.

Dean’s first-semester marketing class was titled “Entrepreneurship.”

“Students worked alone or with a partner to create a product to sell at Market Day, which was held after school during parent-teacher conferences. Students were responsible for the whole project from beginning to end,” said Dean, who also teaches Spanish at Montague High School.

Perales has been involved with Montague DECA since his freshman year in 2022. His specific role in DECA as a student and competitor is to provide effective leadership through goal-setting, consensus building, and project implementation.

A 4.01 student, Perales’ goals are to attend college and major in international business. Down the road, he plans to have his own business around the world. DECA is his main extracurricular activity at Montague.

“DECA enhances my experience as a Montague student personally by providing a useful way to learn new skills as an emerging entrepreneur, and it enhances others by making a better place for students to get involved,” he said.

“My highlights have been things like participating in new experiences for example working alongside fellow DECA members at our schools walkabout day or even going as a chapter to an NBA game to learn about cost of tickets and how supply and demand plays a role.”

Netcott and Ava Pelton are co-directors of finance and co-vice presidents of publicity/social media for DECA.

Netcott got into DECA when her older sister, Morgan, had a “really great experience” in the group while she attended Montague.

The fact Jordan Netcott really likes Dean as a teacher and that the group travels to places such as Michigan State University, Detroit, and Anaheim doesn’t hurt.

“I feel like I learn a lot about how to be independent and a lot of stuff that’s, like, more out of high school – like, real-life experience stuff,” she said.

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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