“It was a spur of the moment decision,” senior and DECA Eastern Kansas Vice President Avery Bolar said. “I just thought that it would be cool.”
Bolar completed the process to apply to be a state officer for DECA in February of last year. The highly competitive process requires an extensive time commitment according to East’s DECA sponsor and marketing teacher, Mercedes Rasmussen.
For Bolar, this spontaneous decision turned from a small competition to a major opportunity that increased his role in the program. The application and campaigning process, which lasts weeks, concludes with six state officers who take on the responsibilities of the officers from last year.
Bolar initially joined DECA because it helps students who are interested in the fields of marketing, management and entrepreneurship practice key skills like interviewing and networking. DECA is an international corporation that includes 250,000 students from seven different countries.
Juniors Sarah Blumenthal and Chace Prothe, who are both involved with the DECA program, have decided to campaign for state officer positions for next school year. They both want to further their DECA experience and make the program better for the younger students. They will be in extensive competition for the position that Bolar currently holds.
As DECA officers, they would be working to host their own events and to improve DECA overall. Last year’s officers created a new website and a newsletter that is distributed to all of the chapter leaders.
Being a state DECA officer increases students’ participation in DECA, providing them with the opportunity to travel all over the country for competitions and leadership classes.
“It has provided me with experience that I need but also it has given me basic leadership knowledge, like how to motivate the people around me and how to get stuff done and work as a team with others,” Bolar said.
Bolar has already gone through the extensive process of running, which includes two to three days of paperwork, preparation and campaigning. Blumenthal and Prothe have already begun this process.
“I knew nothing about it before,” Blumenthal said. “Mercedes started talking to me about the positions and I thought it would be something I would be interested in and something that I would enjoy.”
Even though the decision to apply happened instantaneously, the paperwork did not. The campaign requires even more time in the next few weeks. The paperwork includes many signatures and short answer questions but was fairly easy according to Prothe.
As the campaigners get further into the process, they expect the steps to become substantially more difficult. Leading up to the final vote, Blumenthal and Prothe will each have to deliver a two-minute campaign speech in front of 1000 DECA participants at the state competition.
“It is only less than two minutes of my life, so it is not really going to kill me,” Prothe said. “It will be really worth it in the long run.”
Directly after the speeches, candidates have one last chance to sway voters at the campaigners’ row. Each school has a certain number of electoral votes based on the size of the school. East is a larger school that has the maximum number of delegates, which is four. The schools are allowed to choose their delegates however they wish.
For the candidates, it is important for them to have a piece of their campaign that sets them apart, says Blumenthal.
“We want to catch people’s attention and do something different,” Blumenthal said. “That way we can get to know the people who are voting. We want people to remember our names.”
It’s not just the overall end result of being the state officer that’s beneficial; the entire process gives applicants experience for interviews and speaking in the future.
“It will definitely be worth it whether I’m elected or not just for the experience,” Blumenthal said. “I’ll still meet a lot of new people.”
According to Rasmussen, being an officer looks impressive on a college resume. There are also hundreds of companies looking for talent, so DECA is a good place to find business connections.
“I thought I would just be doing some leadership stuff but now I’m doing a lot for Kansas DECA,” Bolar said. “And I didn’t know how far it could get me just with my reputation and my knowledge of leadership in general.”
Blumenthal and Prothe have the same motivation as they continue the application process and continue into campaigning: they just want to make the program better. The voting will take place on March 6, the opening day of the state competition.