Lawrence's DECA Club means business


Five Lawrence High School students aim to continue the school’s DECA Club success at the state competition and earn spots in the international competition.

Under the direction of Mark Albin, seniors Tyler Bowers and Ryan Dorestal, junior Macario Flores, senior Emma Urgen and junior Ariana Watson, research, write and then present an idea that could be produced, sold and used in the business world.

DECA was founded in 1946 and originally known as the Distributive Education Clubs of America, the nonprofit Reston, Va.-based group aims to prepare high school and college students — budding leaders and entrepreneurs — for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

“I feel good about them,” Albin said, about is unusually smaller team of students. He has guided DECA at Lawrence for the past 18 years. Albin is also a STEAM careers and consumer science teacher.

At times there were as many as 25 students in the club. Albin noted that the Covid pandemic interrupted the club’s momentum. This year is the first since 2019 that the state and international competitions will take place in-person. The hope is the club’s numbers will rebound with the return of live conferences and contests.

The club is leaner but no less brimming with good ideas. The only partnership in the group, Flores and Watson, both juniors, have collaborated on a proposed start-up business called ESB that looks to produce a bio-diesel fuel for renewable energy for places impacted by harmful algae plumes.

“We researched the science behind producing the bio-diesel and we’ve looked up fuel consumption in different places in the world, and we’ve tried to target the places most affected,” said Watson, whose interest in business is fueled by her father, Vittorio, who has managed businesses and is running his own business FamIn.

“I’ve learned that I like being an active part that can work together collaboratively on projects,” said Watson, who has been involved with DECA for two years. “I’ve had a lot of fun researching the topic because I’m interested in science and engineering.” 

Flores and Watson share several classes together and discuss the project then or through FaceTime or Zoom.

“We did the easier and more manageable parts by ourselves,” said Flores, adding that he joined DECA to take part in outside competitions to raise his skill level. “For the concept, the proposal and how much money and investments we want we worked on that together. We checked in on each other to make sure we were on the same page.”

Time management is one thing both said they could improve on now and for next school year’s DECA project.

“I think I have a future in entrepreneurship,” Flores said, “because I like the process of making a presentation and having to win people over. The more I do it, it gets easier. I just feel accomplished that I did that.”

Spurred by wanting to improve his business acumen and a suggestion by his brother Eugene, Bowers joined DECA last school year. He is working in the Hospitality and Tourism marketing section and created an app to be used in place of paper tickets at amusement parks. In case people lose their phones, the app will also be on a rental iPad available through the park.

“This definitely boosted my confidence a lot and also made me think a lot,” Bowers said, adding that creating the presentation and presenting it raised his faith in his abilities. “Talking to people a lot, which is a life skill which everyone needs, helped me a lot.

Encouraged by Bowers, Dorestal joined DECA in his last year of high school to be involved in an extracurricular activity and remain busy.

“I really didn’t think too much of it before because I wasn’t really interested in the business sector because I wanted to major in architecture, ”Dorestal said. “But I wanted to give it a try because he said it would give me people skills, and I’m going to need that when talking to clients.”   

His DECA project for professional selling is a website and software that aims to increase employee accountability through workplace and remote monitoring, chatting, messaging and video conferences.

An affinity for buildings and a talent for drawing attracted Dorestal to architecture. Saying that he could improve on his public speaking he earned peer endorsements from Urgen, who said he is a “very convincing” speaker and Watson who added he is good at physics.

“I do think we should be a bit more sustainable because climate change is real problem,” Dorestal said, noting his architectural vision. “Innovate with new material and building techniques, so we can have a better building that sustains a better future for our children.”

Urgen returned to DECA this school after a two-year hiatus. She worked with her brother Ilia in her freshman year.

“I didn’t know much about DECA, I sort of tagged along,” Urgen said. “I decided to join DECA again just because I was taking just one business class at school, the Virtual Enterprise class that made me want to broaden my business knowledge.” Virtual Enterprise is where students create a virtual business, do presentations and take part in competitions similar to DECA.

Previously with her brother she wrote a paper and did a presentation. This time around Urgen said she wants her sales presentation to be less scripted and more based on her knowledge.

“I think in business there is a different combination of skills,” Urgen said, noting, the accounting, math, presentation and verbal talents required to succeed. “I think I’m good in each category. I don’t want to limit my skills to one specialization.”    

Bowers, Dorestal and Urgen have yet to decide on a college, but have set their sights on studying business management, accounting and architecture and business administration, respectively.

After the December regional, Albin is looking forward to taking his small and talented team to the state competition in Rochester from March 8 to 10. The international competition is April 22 to 25 in Orlando.

“These are life skills they are learning,” he said.