Gahanna Lincoln High School DECA chapter members recently earned the organization's highest honors at DECA's annual International Career Development Conference in Atlanta.

Gahanna had three teams of students finish among the top three teams in the world for their events held April 21-25, according to Kit Lynch, DECA adviser and a Gahanna Lincoln marketing teacher.

In total, he said, 18 Gahanna students finished in the top 20 in the world in their event categories.

Each team of Gahanna students competed in events with 180 other teams from around the globe.

"It has been an honor to work with this great group of students this year," Lynch said. "Their success is a result of their hard work and grit. Competition-wise, they will go down as one of the most successful groups in our program's history."

McKenna Carr and teammates Mitchell Megias and Sam Polonia received first place in the world for the business services research event.

Carr said she and one of her partners plan to go into a health care field, so they met with many different hospitals for their project and ended up working with Mount Carmel Health System.

"We wanted to improve the customer experience," Carr said. "The one big thing we were surprised to find is they don't have purposeful hourly" visits by nurses.

She said the team suggested offering complimentary food and beverage in waiting rooms, as well as providing an estimated wait time in waiting rooms.

Carr said the main suggestion, and the most costly, was providing Sonifi Health. Through use of a tablet or television, it encourages patients to actively participate in their care.

Carr said the DECA chapter is a very close group, and it was fun to explore with all of their teammates on the trip.

"It was awesome," she said. "It was a nice way to close to the high school experience."

She plans to attend Ohio State University this fall as an exploration major, studying something in the science field.

Allison Groves and her partner, Jordan Foulke, placed second in the world in the sports and entertainment event with a project involving the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

"Basically, overall, our goal was to improve the guest experience at the zoo," she said. "With help, we put together a project and competed at state, and got second at state, and competed among best projects in the world."

Groves said she and her partner focused on the fact the zoo doesn't have a local app, and suggested a mobile app.

"We also wanted to expand the aquarium," she said. "We thought it was a little small. We also suggested adding events."

Groves said it was an amazing experience being at the conference.

"I can't thank Mr. Lynch enough for all he has done. Going into DECA, I thought I wanted to do business. Now that I've gone through the experience, I know. I have a better outlook on my career."

She plans to major in business finance at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business.

"I'm excited to get into Fisher and see where the business route will take me," Groves said. "DECA has an amazing group of kids. They will all do something good."

During the school year, about 215,000 student members take part in DECA's competitive-events program, allowing them to compete for local, regional and state titles.

The DECA International Career Development Conference was the pinnacle of competition for nearly 18,000 students vying for international honors, and was DECA's largest conference to date, Lynch said.

The competitions are designed to simulate real-life business scenarios and test students' academic understanding and skills development.

Gahanna's students all completed research projects to help area businesses improve their customer experience, Lynch said.

During the international competition, students presented and defended their work to business professionals.

In addition to career-based competition, DECA members engaged in leadership academies and networking opportunities with more than 60 internationally recognized businesses.

Other Gahanna students receiving recognition at the international level included Natalie Chen and Josh Russell, third place, hospitality services research event; and Mallory Moehring and Lauren Brehm, fourth place, sports and entertainment research event.

Gahanna teams placing in the top 20 were Eric Patterson and Eric Johnson, buying and merchandising research event; Claire Steigerwald and Mason Coleman, buying and merchandising research event; Brad Sheeran and Braden Eves, franchise business plan event; and Lilly Bedell, Lizi Reese and Long Tran, creative marketing research event.