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Sandy Journal

Jordan High School’s DECA students finish seventh at international competition

Jun 06, 2023 09:24AM ● By Julie Slama

The Spot is the antagonist in the upcoming Spider-Verse movie and it’s also a common dining establishment name. 

Since 1993 at Jordan High, the school store has fondly been known as The Spot, which has recently received international acclaim, its second time in six years.

The Spot was entered into the DECA school-based enterprise contest by Jordan High students senior Lauren Hoggan, senior Ian Hose and junior Chloe Cozzens, as they are the ones who oversee the store, said Sam Soter, Jordan High DECA adviser.

“The greatest thing about winning in this particular event is that it’s done by a team,” he said. “It’s the team that represents their school store, and they’re the ones who wrote the report. They represent the 60 kids who throughout the year have had their hands working in the store, and some of those kids next year will learn and benefit from what these students leave behind. It becomes a tradition, and it has a reputation that they will build on. It has become part of Jordan’s legacy.”

DECA prepares high school and college students to become leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. At the international conference, students who took part in the competition represented some of the more than 3,600 high school chapters.

At the International Career Development Conference awards ceremony, the group knew they were in the top 10, but it wasn’t until the official results came out that they knew they placed seventh, edging out The Spot’s previous top 10 finish, ninth in 2016.

“From Utah, we had about 300 students at the international competition in different events. Only eight of about 40 different Utah schools made it in the top 10 on stage, so this was exceptional and speaks volumes to the work put in by our kids,” he said. “Even to compete at the national level is an honor as only three school stores per state qualify as well as other qualifiers from other countries. So, it’s rare to be in the top 10 of the 150 top stores in the in the country.”

And The Spot isn’t the same spot year in year out, he said.

While the name and the formula of students running the operation may stay the same, each year, it is rebranded with a new design, look, logo and business plan.

“It’s a student-based enterprise so every year, we start from the ground up and throw away our logo and branding. We start anew with market research and a branding concept. We hold a branding competition so literally the kids that work there have ownership. They don’t inherit a store with the logo and information from last year, which would be an easy to follow, but instead, they engage in this whole entrepreneurial experience and learn what it takes and be able to create it,” Soter said, adding this year’s “graffiti” look contrasted sharply with the 1950’s diner theme in 2016.

It also comes with establishing a business and operation plan, which is part of the DECA competition.

The three student leaders operated as the CEO, CFO and chief management officer of the store, overseeing its operation. For the contest, they wrote about their experience in a 30-page report, which first was evaluated and received a gold certification. Then, they competed by sharing their business plan, vision, and marketing in front of judges, who are top executives at Fortune 500 companies.

The trio, who operate the school store that serves mostly lunch and snack items as a fundraiser for DECA’s international contest travel, was part of a group of 13 students who attended the business leader academy at the conference, five others qualified to compete at internationals after finishing in the top at state.

Other international competitors included Andrew Hatch, who was a state champion in sports marketing and entertainment series; Vienna Villalobos, who took the state title in retail merchandising; Makayla Nelson and Laurel Ames, who took third at state in marketing management team; and Jared Keller, who placed fourth at state in food marketing series.

Even with their top 10 in late April in Orlando, Soter said they didn’t compete as well as they thought they could at state, where they finished third.

“They didn’t feel they had their best effort at state, so they took what they learned at state to improve as they were determined to do well at nationals. When they announced our students amongst the 20,000 there at the awards ceremony, at first, it was shock and elation, and then there were tears. The rest of the team was just beaming. We’re still on a high,” he said. “As a teacher, I just couldn’t be more proud because this moment will last a lifetime. They learned confidence and hard work and to see them be rewarded for it is the best part of teaching.”

At Jordan, DECA isn’t just competing. While only a fraction of students compete, Soter teaches business ethics and “being altruistic and giving back” to all 70 chapter members. This year, students supported the Utah Food Bank and The Road Home monthly. They have had field trips and guest speakers as well as have gotten together socially, sharing common experiences.

“It’s a positive outlet for our students; the center point is that they are interested in that career in business and marketing. They’re learning and competing—similar to winning in football, but not just in state, but nationally. At the same time, all our students have a great chance they’ll become professionals in the field—and won’t be suffering any concussions along the way.” λ