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Three students to represent Hillcrest High at DECA nationals

Apr 09, 2018 11:53AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Hillcrest High students had 25 students advance to finals at the recent state DECA contest. (Emily Grass/Hillcrest High School)

Three seniors will represent Hillcrest High School at the national DECA contest in April.

After placing in the top five in the state, the team of Suraj Ramkumar and Rylee Brown will compete in the team entrepreneurship category and Cole Paradis will compete in the individual entrepreneurship contest in Atlanta April 20-25. The entrepreneurship category is new this year.

The team of Suraj and Rylee return to nationals after placing in the final round in a different category at nationals last year.

“They’re stepping up their game and gearing up for finals,” said adviser Emily Grass. “We’re hoping they will be on stage for being amongst the top in their event, role play or test.”

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. 

There are about 50 categories where students can compete individually or with another team member, or with two other members in a written project. 

To qualify for nationals, students need to place in the top of their category at state, Grass said.

“We had seven finish in the top three at state, but none of those students could attend nationals, so those who finished behind them moved up into their spots,” she said, citing conflicts with Advance Placement and International Baccalaureate testing as being the main reasons that eliminated 14 of the 17 students who could have competed at nationals.

Those students include seniors Gabriel Ciet and Ellie Runk, who took first place in hospitality services; seniors Tyler Ball and Harini Srinivasan, who took second place in business law and ethics; junior Tess Jorgensen, who placed second in retail merchandising; and junior Emily Langie and sophomore Momina Sial, who placed second in entrepreneurship team.

“I’m impressed how we did,” she said, adding that of the 28 students who competed at state, 25 of them were in the finals. “They represented our school well.”

To qualify for state, students had to place well at region, which was Jan. 26. Hillcrest had 33 students of the 49 who competed place in the top three.

“We had more freshmen and sophomore involved, but a number of them couldn’t compete at state with conflicts or they didn’t want to miss school,” she said.

At state, Grass was recognized as well for being the DECA new adviser of the year.

“They flashed my name in giant letters on the two screens before they announced it, but I didn’t see it until someone next to me said, ‘That’s you,’” she said. “Saraj, who is the state president, gave me a plaque. I don’t remember a whole lot; my mind was going millions of miles that minute, but I do remember him saying, ‘You took a giant W for us students.’”

In addition to the plaque, she received $100.

Her anonymous nomination said that: “Emily’s DECA program at Hillcrest High School continues to be a dominant force in Utah DECA and her development of the Hillcrest program is a tribute to her dedication to her students and their passion for marketing. Emily is the kind of advisor who always pushes her students to leave their comfort zone in order to become better and grow as leaders.”

Grass said it’s the students who make the program.

“We’re at club rush in the fall and if students are interested, we welcome them,” she said. “If they are able to articulate and share what they know, marketing can be taught. If they want to learn, they can be part of our team.” 

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