After a four-year absence on the leadership slate for state DECA officers, Ralston High School is back.
Gabe McAndrews, a junior at RHS, nabbed the vice-presidency of the high school business education organization in elections last month at the DECA state conference in Lincoln. McAndrews joins a long legacy of DECA officeholders from Ralston that stretches well back to the 1990s.
“It feels pretty good to be representing the whole school on a state level,” McAndrews said last week after the election. “We definitely have one of the best DECA organizations in the state here.”
And McAndrews and several of his RHS DECA colleagues also went to Lincoln for the conference to prove it.
In the conference’s competition portion, McAndrews won first place in marketing management and also captured first, second and third place on three tests of his marketing mettle.
Ralston sophomore Dante McKenna finished first in a role-playing test for apparel and accessories, sophomore Josh Morgera placed fifth overall in business services management and was second in a role-playing test.
Tracy Hinchcliff-Smith, the DECA adviser, said historically, Ralston has competed at a high level and, moreover, done so successfully, helping put RHS on the DECA map. This year’s triumphs will restore that order.
“Years ago, we had a long legacy of DECA officers and DECA competition wins,” Hinchcliff said. “That means something for a little school like ours and these kids, I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished and what they’re going to keep doing.”
As a team, RHS DECA completed community service projects, business projects and promotion projects — nine in all during the months of November and December — resulting in a qualification for four individuals including junior Maribel Domingo, sophomore Brian Finney, McKenna and Morgera, to attend the DECA International Thrive Leadership Academy in Atlanta in May.
“It shows how hard we worked on our promotional campaign,” Morgera said. “This is a great opportunity for us to show what we do and how our program has grown.”
Morgera alludes to the 32 percent increase in participation in Ralston’s DECA chapter, a bump that has allowed the organization to do more hands-on projects, including helping out with marketing promotions at Applewood Hy-Vee and creating a Dress for Success event with the Men’s Wearhouse and The Limited that helped RHS students learn about what to wear for important life events.
“This year was really big,” McKenna said. “I think we saw that, with hard work and dedication, anything can be done, especially for kids like us who want to have a future in business. We learned that DECA is the place to be and it’s a message we want to project. I love this organization.”
DECA students also attended leadership development conferences in La Vista and Milwaukee, allowing for educational opportunities and networking.
“I think we’re all super grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to work with professionals in business and marketing,” Domingo said.
McAndrews’ election is also seen as a hallmark of a resurgent future for RHS DECA.
“This is a legacy we want to continue,” McAndrews said. “This year, we’re going to expand that legacy.”