How your child can benefit from high school student organizations

By Susan Pohorski

Which high school students practice, work together, compete and wear uniforms, receive scholarships, but are not on sports teams? They are members of student organizations such as DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, FFA, HOSA and Skills USA. 

Members of these organizations gain confidence, leadership skills, maturity and career readiness. And they have fun doing it!

Each organization focuses on different careers and provides members with opportunities to meet professionals in those fields. Students develop personally and professionally through educational programs, community service, group projects and competitions. 

Recently I had the privilege of attending the DECA State Career Development Conference. More than 1,300 students who qualified at district events came together to show their skills. On day one they took exams in areas such as marketing, finance and hospitality management. The second day was filled with “role play” competitions. 

My first impression of this group came shortly after I arrived when I met Bryce Jurss, a student at Kettle Moraine High School. He introduced himself and presented his business card. Bryce owns a business, Explicit Gum, selling to retailers and school/DECA stores.  

“DECA teaches you things like how to overcome challenges and obstacles, and solve problems,” Bryce told me. 

Then I met Bo Montgomery, a junior at Appleton West High School. Bo joined DECA after hearing great things from his friends who were members. Participating in the club activities has given him experience in planning, speaking, social relations and “thinking on your feet.” 

“It helped me focus,” Bo said. “DECA helps you grow and learn how to network. You find out how the business world works.” 

I watched as Clarissa Hitter, a student from Appleton East, presented her “role play” to a judge. Students are given a business situation and have 10 minutes to come up with a solution and 10 minutes to present their ideas. 

Clarissa presented two marketing plans for a retail store that had been in business for 50 years, but was seeing declining sales. Her presentation included changes in packaging, pricing, promotions and redefining the target market. She skillfully gave reasons for her proposal and addressed the risks. I was impressed. 

Not all DECA members want to go into business when they graduate from high school, but they see benefits from participating that go beyond career choice. 

Fiona Ljumani, a Middleton High School senior, started competing in the Restaurant and Food Service Management category because her family owns and operates two restaurants. She later discovered a passion for Business Law and Ethics. However, her career goal is to go into pediatric medicine. 

“My DECA experience will help me be ready to talk with patients and families,” she explained. 

Jennifer Stark White, a marketing teacher and DECA advisor at Oconomowoc High School, says the competitions prepare students for job interviews, college application essays and provide resume material. 

“DECA really pulls some students out of their shells,” said John Zimmerman, Janesville Parker High School instructor and DECA advisor for 21 years. “My favorite successes are watching my alumni succeed in their respective lives with careers in finance, marketing, management, entrepreneurship, accounting, nursing, physical therapy, to name a few.” 

John also said DECA brings the classroom alive and gives students a real world perspective. 

Help your middle or high school student find out more about these organizations and see where he or she might fit in. 

  • DECA – Prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.
  • FBLA – Brings business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs.
  • FCCLA – Promotes personal growth and leadership development through Family and Consumer Sciences Education.
  • FFA – Dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of young people by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
  • HOSA – Develops leadership and technical HOSA skill competencies through a program of motivation, awareness and recognition, which is an integral part of the Health Science Education instructional program.
  • SkillsUSA – Empowers members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens. Improves the quality of America’s skilled workforce through a structured program of citizenship, leadership, employability, technical and professional skills training. 

Does your community have these student organizations? Ask your school guidance counselor.



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