They came, they saw, they conquered: the story of four DECA students’ journey at States


Despite FHC’s school population numbering in at over one thousand, there are only two students who can say that they have placed as finalists at States for DECA for two back-to-back years.

These two students are seniors Andrea Wang and Courtney Fox.

Furthermore, for the first time in three years, FHC will be represented in Nashville at DECA’s International Career Development Conference by another two students.

These two students are juniors Eden Growney and Lauren Bont.

DECA, the extracurricular that these four students have brought such glory to, is a competition-based student organization that teaches students everywhere about the inner workings of the business field and its pertinence to the real world. And, from Thursday, March 5th to Sunday, March 8th, FHC’s DECA team competed at the State Career Development Conference—or, as it’s more commonly called, ‘States’.

Although the entire team was at the same event, each member has an entirely different story about what happened at States. Unlike most team events, DECA teams get separated into smaller groups that each perform in different areas of the business world ranging from ‘travel and tourism team decision-making’ to ‘start-up business plans.’

At States, Courtney Fox and Andrea Wang—who competed in the project-based, start-up business plans category—presented on a topic that, for most, doesn’t come to mind when they think of typical businesses: pickleball.

“We did a start-up business for a pickleball company [that] creates indoor pickleball courts,” Courtney said. “Because pickleball has been growing in Grand Rapids and other places rapidly, we came up with an idea to create temporary locations in the winter when the indoor courts are needed.”

Their project was impressive enough to garner enough points to deem them as finalists at the conference; although, this wasn’t a new experience to the pair as they were finalists at States last year, too. For both Andrea and Courtney, becoming finalists is an honor.

“I was proud of how we did, and I thought we did the best that we could personally,” Andrea said.

As DECA veterans, both Courtney and Andrea have become well-versed in the business field, but DECA continues to provide them both with knowledge of the complicated career path.

“I would say, for the most part, [DECA helped me with] presentation skills and being able to talk in front of a judge confidently and present your ideas to them,” Andrea said. “[DECA] isn’t really guided, so [Courtney and I also learned] time management as well and figuring out when we’re going to work on [what] and how much we’re going to do [on a certain day].”

Both Andrea and Courtney were accepted into the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business—one of the top business schools in the country. For Courtney, she plans to use the lessons she’s learned from DECA to help her with her future in business at Ross.

“DECA has definitely helped my presenting skills,” Courtney said. “In school, since I want to go into business, there’s not a lot of opportunities to get involved with it, [and] DECA helps you learn a lot of the vocabulary and different aspects of it while you’re creating a project. I’ve also [met] a lot of people that are also interested in business, [so it will help to] keep in contact with them and start networking.”

While Andrea and Courtney will be studying to become future business moguls next year, Eden and Lauren will be seniors in DECA. For now, however, Eden and Lauren are most focused on the conference in Nashville at the end of April.

At States, Eden and Lauren’s roleplay was centered around travel and tourism team decision-making. In their situation, they had to step into the shoes of an airline company that was experiencing a scammer pretending to be them and spreading false information. Their solutions and responses to this problem dazzled their judge so much so that they finished as top finalists which propelled them into the international conference taking place in the spring.

Eden Growney (left) and Lauren Bont (right) after learning they were finalists at States.

Lauren is hoping to utilize the lessons she learned at States to benefit her in Nashville.

“[DECA has taught me] how to be quick on my feet and how to work with [others] better—like being collaborative and bouncing ideas off of each other,” Lauren said.

Eden concurs with Lauren and feels that DECA is truly supplying her with information about the business world.

“[DECA has taught me] quicker problem solving and teamwork and definitely being creative in problem-solving,” Eden said.  “[I’ve learned] about problems and [am] learning more about business and what can happen.”

Though FHC hasn’t gone to Nashville for three years now, Eden and Lauren aren’t experiencing nerves for they know that their experience at States will be a valuable asset to them.

On top of their helpful experience, they are hoping to keep a positive mindset despite the pressure and are more focused on what they will take away from the conference in Nashville than the results of the conference itself. 

“I’ve learned a lot about problem-solving, and I hope to learn more of that logical thinking,” Lauren said. “I don’t necessarily just hope to win.”

Eden is looking forward to the competitive aspect of Nashville and the speed and wit that it requires.

“I’m expecting to learn persistence and staying calm under pressure because [going from] Districts to States, [I got] more stressed, and I’ll definitely have to learn how to be composed and work fast on my feet,” Eden said. “I have nothing to lose. I’ll go as hard as I can go with my creativity, and I’ll take all my skills in marketing and try to incorporate that.” 

Though Eden is one of the few members of DECA nationwide that will be competing in Nashville, she believes the lessons she has learned from DECA are applicable to everyone, and she advocates that people join the organization that she has grown to love during her first year on the team.

“Anyone can do DECA,” Eden said. “DECA is not about being smart and knowing everything about business. It’s about using your skills to your advantage, problem-solving, and just being creative.”