SIERRA VISTA — Six Buena High School marketing students qualified to compete in the Distributive Education Clubs of America International Career Development Conference on April 23-26 in Atlanta.

The ICDC allows DECA students to compete and showcase their research and knowledge of business management, marketing and entrepreneurship as well as take courses in leadership and management.

“There’s an individual series event — which are the most well-attended events — that’s where one student solves a real-world business problem in front of a judge,” said Buena marketing teacher and DECA advisor Bill Conroy. “And there’s also business operations research projects where you’re given time to prepare and research things and then present it to a judge.”

Conroy said four of his marketing students —Shayan Khan, Julian McDowall, Joseph Wallace and Anneliese Traugutt — are competing in the individual series competition. Victoria “Tori” Kemnitz and Jenny Ou will be attending ICDC’s Elevate Emerging Leader Conference.

Wallace, a senior, said that for the individual competition he chose food service management for his research. He said the topic hits close to home, as his family owns two restaurants, the Longhorn Restaurant and Big Nose Kate’s Saloon in Tombstone.

“My event is in hospitality and tourism — and my specific event is restaurant and food service management,” said Wallace. “ In the individual series events, each student has 10 minutes to read a pre-prepared script of a situation — a scenario that there is a problem that they need to solve — and there are three different standards that your role play has to match in order to solve the problem.

“And you’re graded on those five standards as well as some intangibles such as speaking clearly, eye contact, things such as that. At state, I got second place in my individual series event.”

Wallace said the students are graded on several key performance indicators, or KPIs. Conroy said the Arizona State Standards also incorporate these KPIs into the curriculum.

“For example, one would be ‘how does a customer’s experience impact your sales or revenue?’ or another one would be ‘how can customers vote?’” said Wallace. “One thing Mr. Conroy is really good about is he makes us predict our KPIs — that’s one of our assignments that we do to prepare for competition. And what we do is read through these big, long lists of different parts of running a business — or in my case, running a restaurant.”

Khan, a senior and president of Buena’s DECA student organization, said his focus for the individual series presentation is entrepreneurship.

“I chose entrepreneurship because that applies to what I want to do in the future, and I want to be a business consultant,” said Khan. “So being (in) the entrepreneurship series gives you all the skills needed and gives you situations that really apply in real life that will help me with my career path, because my role play, usually all of them are about assess(ing) the risk of this decision. ‘Should we do this or that?’ ‘How should we go about marketing and just grow the business?’ It incompasses everything in business.”

Traugutt, a senior, did her Sports Business Operations presentation on Buena’s athletic program and ways it can be improved.

“I wanted to compete just because winning at state felt amazing and being second in the state of Arizona for this project that I worked on for what feels like forever was just, like, fantastic,” said Traugutt, who presented her findings to the Sierra Vista Unified School District governing board and Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes at the April 5 meeting.

“So, my presentation is in the sports and entertainment operations research event,” she said. “I decided to do the Buena athletic department. And through that, I just kinda researched the department, I interviewed a lot of people, I sent out surveys and I did a focus group. And through all the research and all of my findings, I was able to find a solution to the problem that I found with the department.

“With the employee experience, I found that a lot of the coaches weren’t getting a lot of training, or they weren’t doing their training or there was just something wrong with the training, not every coach was doing it.

“So, I came up with a plan to make sure that all coaches were doing their training and that the management could make sure that coaches were doing their training so that athletes had a better time, students had a better time, and in general, the athletic department grew as a whole and was able to benefit their student athletes more than they already are.”

Juniors Kemnitz and Ou will be attending the Leader Conference as two of 11 Arizona DECA students who could apply to attend.

“For this year’s ICDC, it’s my first time going, actually,” said Ou. “It’s pretty much just figuring out how to best lead in your DECA club. So, figuring out, like, different management styles, different management techniques, about how best to implement them so that the club is working as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Kemnitz said, “I was born in Atlanta, so it’s just really nice to get back there and stuff to learn everything that I’m going to be learning, for the amazing opportunities that’s going to be held over there. I’m going so that I can be a better leader for next year’s Buena DECA program. I’m definitely trying to shoot for president next year.”

Conroy is an alumni of the Buena DECA program.

“Buena has been participating in DECA for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I graduated here from Buena in 1994 and I participated in DECA as a student and I qualified for ICDC — the international conference — as well as my sister, she traveled as well. It was a great opportunity and definitely lifelong memories for me.”

He said it’s important to provide opportunities like this for high school students because it helps them see the possibilities in business and entrepreneurship.

“It gets them excited about business, it gets them into the economic engine,” said Conroy. “It drives the economy, it gets people in there, it helps to develop that next generation, and without that, we’re just going to be stuck with a lot of chains and a lot of Amazons. And I think we want a little diversity in our life.

“So, having that great customer service, teaching them business skills, having a business mindset not only encourages them to be young entrepreneurs but also encourages them to be better employees as well.”