Elijah Gurley and Jace Thornton move on to national competition for DECA


Students at FHC who wish to enter a business field following graduation have many of options when it comes to classes that appeal to their interests. On top of the in-school classes offered, DECA is available for students to participate in. DECA, otherwise known as Distributive Education Clubs of America, is an extra-curricular offered at FHC, that is mainly targeted towards those interested in business or marketing. Juniors Elijah Gurley and Jace Thornton participate in DECA and have done exceptionally well in competitions thus far.

Elijah and Jace decided to compete as a role-play team in the Sports and Entertainment Team Decision Making category; they were faced with a business scenario and were required to successfully develop a solution and present it to a judge. This past weekend at the statewide competition in Detroit, Elijah and Jace took the highest score in their event, which is arguably one of the most competitive events given its popularity. Not only did they accomplish this impressive feat, but they also qualified for the national competition in Anaheim, California.

“Our instant reaction was excitement,” Elijah said. “Jace and I both held up our medals right away. We were pumped that we made it that far and not to only have a great opportunity for future colleges and all that, but we can also have fun in Anaheim, California – it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

This year is both Jace and Elijah’s first year participating in DECA, and both admittedly joined for the day off school to compete in districts. However, after being met with success at the district competition back in January, both realized they could achieve more than they originally believed.

“We were kind of confident in our abilities [before districts], but a lot of people around us kind of doubted our chance of making it out [to states],” Elijah said. “We both knew that as long as we did what we were supposed to do that we could make it out of districts, so we weren’t completely surprised when we made it to states, but it’s not something we were totally expecting.”

After realizing they had a shot at doing better than either of them originally foresaw, the amount of work Elijah and Jace put into their project increased greatly. Before districts, neither really knew what to expect, so the amount of preparation was minimal. However, entering into states, the pair really focused in on their goal and utilized their time in DECA leader Kristin Oa��Brien’s classes.

Leading up to nationals, Elijah and Jace plan to work a bit closer with Oa��Brien to ensure success.

“We’re going to go to Mrs. Oa��Brien a few times and talk to her and get some help,” Elijah said. “We also want to stay loose; we don’t want to over-prepare and stress ourselves out. We just want to go in confident and trust our abilities that have gotten us this far, but also get some counseling with Mrs. Oa��Brien.”

Although both Elijah and Jace have spoken about the great amounts of knowledge passed on to them by Oa��Brien, she believes they were responsible for their own successes.

“I honestly did not have a major role in their success,” Oa��Brien said. “They have been in my classes, but I didn’t do a lot of coaching or practicing with them; they used their natural abilities. Both are great students, genuine and professional presenters, and work well together.”

Both are great students, genuine and professional presenters, and work well together.

— Kristin O'Brien

Elijah and Jace have been close friends since the eighth grade and bonded over sports. Finding a common interest and being able to work on a project based around something they both enjoy has helped them have major successes.

“We bounce off of each other really well,” Jace said. “It probably has to do with our chemistry from football and just hanging out all the time. We do really well just working together to win.”

While the prospect of an international competition may seem daunting to some, Elijah and Jace remain optimistic about their chances. They have overcome the doubts of themselves as well as others, and they hope to prosper at nationals.

“Going in, we might have been one of the least expected groups to make it out,” Jace said. “I think people believed we had no chance, I even believed we had no chance, [but we managed to make it this far.]”