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DECA students compete at state conference

Arlington High School DECA students Mariah Kavanagh, right, and Janessa Schmidt competed in the state Career Development Conference earlier this month. - Adam Rudnick
Arlington High School DECA students Mariah Kavanagh, right, and Janessa Schmidt competed in the state Career Development Conference earlier this month.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Mariah Kavanagh now knows that beard hairs can make or break a business.

The Arlington High School junior was recently required to smooth over a hypothetical situation in which Kavanagh was a restaurant manager, and her chef had purposely put beard hairs on a customer’s steak.

“You had to come up with the most creative way to solve a problem,” Kavanagh said about the exercise. “It was a difficult situation because we fired the chef. Now we don’t hire people with beards.”

Kavanagh was one of about 20 Arlington DECA students who earlier this month took part in the Washington state Career Development Conference. There, the teenagers competed in a number of role-playing and business-related events that tested not only their problem solving but also their people skills.

“There were about 3,000 kids during the opening session,” said Arlington DECA instructor Tyler Paine about the state conference which took place in Bellevue. “It’s a pretty intense atmosphere. Some were up until 2 a.m. looking up new vocabulary words.”

Students who belong to DECA have the option of studying and competing in marketing, management and other business-related events within state and national conferences.

Three of the school’s students — juniors Becky Victory, Tabby Tregoning and Keila Gordon — advanced to the International Career Development Conference in Louisville, Ky., which takes place April 24-27.

The trio of students created an Arlington High School DECA portfolio called a Chapter Awards Project, which is complete with photos, cutouts and documents as required by organization standards.

Not all the Arlington students advanced to nationals, but Paine said that placing well isn’t what the state conference is about.

Paine said the event not only teaches the teens about ethical practices within business, it also helps them with their confidence and communication skills.

“For them it’s a really rewarding experience,” Paine said. “You see a lot of them come out of their shell.”

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