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DECA students represent Hillcrest High well at state, national competitions

Jun 02, 2017 10:57AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Fifty Hillcrest High DECA students competed and took the top three places at state. (Emily Merrell/Hillcrest High School)

By Julie Slama  |  Julie@mycityjournals.com
 
When Hillcrest High junior Suraj Ramkumar and his teammate, junior Rylee Brown, received their medals for making the final round at the national DECA competition, the audience knew they were happy.
 
“When it was announced we were one of the teams in the finals, we were jumping and hugging,” Suraj said. He even flashed a U with his forefingers and thumbs to represent the team from Utah. “We were so excited.”
 
The duo making the finals and fellow DECA teammates and seniors Jared Liddiard and Parker Uber scoring in the top 10 percent on their tests were amongst Hillcrest High’s highlights at the national contest held in late April in Anaheim, California.
 
DECA, a non-profit student organization, prepares emerging high school leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. There are more than 215,000 members in 3,500 high school chapters across the United States.
 
Making the final round had been one of Suraj’s goals since he began as a freshman.
 
“I had a friend who was a senior get me into DECA. I sent him a text to let him know we made it to the finals and he was so happy for us,” he said.
 
Once the announcement was made, Suraj and Rylee realized they only had minutes before their final round began.
 
“It was probably a good thing because I felt we had so much adrenaline and energy in our final role play,” he said. 
 
Suraj said that he has a lot to be thankful through his experience in DECA.
 
 “I love DECA and how much it has done for me.  At first, I was nervous talking to people and couldn’t look them in the eye. I was nervous to get up in front of people,” he said.
 
In three years, Suraj not only has become more comfortable with his presentations in front of judges, he also has served this past year as state DECA central region vice president and this spring, won his state presidency election.
 
“I am passionate about DECA and that shows through my excitement when I talk to people.  I’d like to get more people involved statewide and to connect and build relationships with other chapters,” he said.
 
Besides Suraj, Rylee, Jared and Parker, 20 other Hillcrest High students competed at nationals after placing in the top honors at the state DECA competition in February.  Several others qualified, but had conflicts that prevented them from attending.
 
At state, 50 students were in the finals and the team took seven first-place honors, eight in second place and 11 third-place finishes. There were 11 repeat winners and two students had three-peated.  Students Tyler Ball, Parker Uber and Emily Johnston placed in the top 10 percent in their written tests, said adviser Emily Merrell.
 
In addition to Suraj and Rylee, the state winners include Tyler Ball, Ben Bown, Paul Edwards, Sean Kuo and Jalen Rasmussen. Second-place awardees include Michelle Chung, Gabrielle Ciet, Sophia Khalaji, Jared Liddiard, Ismael Pinto, Ellie Runk, Christopher Turner and Parker Uber.  Third place finishes included Michael Alverson, Tyler Ball, Rylee Brown, Jaehyun Han, Emily Johnston, Sujar Ramkumar, Jose Rodriguez, Harini Srinivasan, Vivek Vankayalapati, Cameron Welch and Angie Zheng.
 
“We really have talented students,” said Merrell. “In individual events, students usually study and prepare on their own. With team events, they get together reviewing role plays and tests. They practice problem-solving skills with different scenarios. Often, the role plays call for them to think on their toes and be creative to come up with a plan. Then, they need to work together as a team to prepare a seamless presentation.”
 
She said that a solid understanding of marketing can be applied to any category.
 
“They can compete in something they may not know as well, but it’s still marketing something so the same skills and understanding is being used,” Merrell said. “It’s a skill they will be able to use in their future as well as with DECA.”
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