Twenty-six Licking Heights High School DECA members attended the Ohio DECA Career Development Conference on March 16-17 in Columbus, where students took part in marketing competitions showcasing the projects they have been working on in school this year.

Twenty-six Licking Heights High School DECA members attended the Ohio DECA Career Development Conference on March 16-17 in Columbus, where students took part in marketing competitions showcasing the projects they have been working on in school this year.

Ten of the DECA members were top 10 finalists in such categories as International Business Plan, Financial Services Management and Professional Selling.

Sophomore Dominic Opipari's performance during his simulated interview qualified him to compete at the International DECA Career Conference April 28-May 1 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Senior Marqus Smith's entrepreneurial project also qualified him for the international event.

Opipari said he participated in Principles of Business Administration at the Columbus event. He took a written exam that tested his knowledge of business, then participated in a short interview with judges who asked him various questions pertaining to business.

His performance on the written exam and first interview earned him a second interview.

"That's when I thought, 'Now this is serious,'" he said.

During the second interview he was asked to describe how he would help college students find jobs and explain to them what the necessary qualifications would be for those jobs.

Opipari said he was pretty nervous during the interview, but figured he must have impressed the judges. He said the trip to Utah will take about a week, including travel time. While there, he said, he'll compete against roughly 200 others.

DECA adviser Steve Varricchio, also a Licking Heights business teacher, said Smith qualified for the international conference with his own clothing line, which includes printed T-shirts. Varricchio said that for entrepreneurial students like Smith, the end goal for the competition is for the student to present his or her start-up business as if to an investor.

"DECA is lots of role-playing," he said.

According to the Ohio DECA website, DECA is an organization for students enrolled in marketing education. It is designed to promote a total program of activities to develop leadership, teamwork skills and individual growth.

"It's an organization that really serves the students well," said Varricchio, who has been an adviser to Licking Heights' DECA members for 13 years.

He said originally, DECA was an acronym for Distributive Education Clubs of America. As time progressed, the organization moved more toward marketing. But, "they didn't want to change the acronym," Varricchio said.

While Opipari and Smith obviously did very well at the competition, Varricchio said all 26 Licking Heights DECA students were strong competitors.

"We're proud of all of them," he said.