NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Class was in session for Northbridge High School business students recently, but the studies were anything but typical.
Some of the students were at the mall in Auburn making cold calls, two were eating lunch while working on a redesign of the school’s athletic department web page, and others were developing a new product meant to simplify someone’s life.
The students are members of the Northbridge High School DECA Club, a student-run organization that concentrates on business and technology.
Though it’s called a club, it’s really a co-curricular, project-based class open only to business students that presents “real-life’’ business problems that require real-life solutions, notes class adviser Susan-Palmer-Howes.
Students are currently working to meet a challenge issued by DECA, which is an international organization. Palmer-Howes said. DECA’s mission “is to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management,’’ according to its website.
There are 37 DECA students in Northbridge this year, she said, all of them working on individual projects they will present at a district competition in January.
The hope is that, through the district competition in January and the state competition in March, they will earn a place at the national competition scheduled in Anaheim, Calif., next April.
Many of the students find the competitions, which involve public speaking, difficult. “I dragged one kid kicking and screaming’’ to a competition, Palmer-Howes said. “She was so shy, she didn’t want to do it.’’
She saw a poised young woman emerge from the shy young girl, one of the benefits of DECA membership. “That’s what comes from forcing them to take that risk,’’ Palmer-Howes said.
Palmer-Howes has been involved in DECA for 12 years. For the first time, she’ll see one of her students run for office at the state conference. “We’re very excited about that,’’ she said.
DECA has 200,000 members world-wide in 5,000 high schools and colleges in the 50 U.S. states and in nine countries. It gives $500,000 in scholarships and awards and has more than 60 partner sponsors.
Many DECA members are hired by local businesses and colleges are happy to select students with a DECA background. “They (colleges) want them to have a little accounting, a little business. The business umbrella covers many different things,’’ Palmer-Howes said.