CKHS DECA Works Towards Personal Growth and Wins Big

CKHS DECA members highlight not only the business education that DECA provides but the perseverance and discipline it instills


CKHS DECA at the regional conference. (Provided by Shayla Sutliff)

by Rosalie Johnson, Reporter, Editor-in-Chief

For many Central Kitsap High School DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) members, the idea of joining DECA was introduced to them upon entering high school. At first, they joined for the experience and its positive effects on employment resumes and college applications.

“In freshman year, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough clubs or activities for college applications,” CKHS junior and DECA member Ferrah Capas reasoned for joining DECA. She thought it would be centered on only business and entrepreneurship, but it has since become her favorite club at CKHS. “There is a really big community for DECA at CK, and Mrs. Ferate is super welcoming with it, so it’s a really nice place to be.”

However, for others, joining and experiencing DECA has been a lifelong dream.

“When I was little, my mom would show me pictures of her friend’s daughter that was in DECA and they dressed up all fancy and got to visit cool places and I would say ‘Oh, I want to do that!’,” said sophomore Camryn Diabo. 

Right before her freshman year started, Diabo approached DECA adviser Kerri Ferate to ask if CKHS had a DECA club. At the time, not many people were in DECA or looking to join, and in Diabo’s first year, only around four other people started out in DECA. However, it quickly became one of Diabo’s “favorite places at CK.”

According to Capas, CKHS’ DECA is smaller than other schools from around the county and state, but this aids in a tighter and more connected group of members.

“You build really good relationships with other students in DECA, but you also get to meet a lot of other DECA students when you travel,” she said.

Junior Shayla Sutliff also finds value in the relationships developed through DECA and DECA opportunities.

“It’s given me a community and community of people interested in the same thing,” she expressed. “The field trips we take are really beneficial because I learn not just about business, but also interact with students from all around the county and the state.”

CKHS DECA at the regional conference. (Provided by Ferrah Capas)

According to Sutliff, the relationships between the members of CKHS DECA creates a motivational environment that encourages social and personal success. Through participation, members have built confidence and security in learning and trusting their personal growth.

“I wouldn’t consider myself somebody who was super interested in business and finance, but once I started researching and really put in that effort I realized I could become really knowledgeable about it,” said Sutliff. “It definitely builds that self-confidence that if there were something in the future that I didn’t think I was suited for, it’s still worth it to give it a try.”

This self-confidence and relationships developed over DECA trips are implemented in DECA competitions that CKHS enters. Over the weekend of January 7-8, 2023, 14 out of 21 CKHS DECA participants placed in the regional competition and are headed to the state competition, including Sutliff (first in Business and Finance), Diabo (second in Sports and Entertainment), and Capas alongside partner Marisa Oishi (Entrepreneurship).

For this immense success, DECA members credit each other and their adviser, CKHS Marketing teacher and FBLA and DECA adviser Kerri Ferate, while Ferate credits the members themselves.

“I just have a really neat group,” Ferate said. “They encourage each other. I really think it’s that.”

However, Sutliff explained “…it mostly has to do with Mrs. Ferate. She’s been so helpful and she’s doing her best to make sure we get to competitions. She’s very lovely and really fun to work with and helps us stay very organized.”

Ferate has been the DECA adviser since 2015, but has been advising Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) since 1984, which also marks the first year of her teaching career. 

“I walked in the door, and they told me, ‘oh by the way, you’re managing FBLA!’,” she recalled. 

At the end of this year, Ferate is retiring after 39 years of educational service. However, she will still volunteer at FBLA and DECA events and remain available for DECA student assistance.

“DECA and FBLA are truly my favorite parts of my job,” Ferate expressed. “Some of the kids are in my classes – ideally they would take Store Operations and also be in DECA, but not everybody does that. They just recruit each other.”

She runs both business and marketing courses at CKHS, and having both available means “having more opportunities for students to be involved.”

Ferate feels a sense of pride and astonishment for students that participate and perform in DECA competitions: “It’s unbelievable,” she expressed. “They just take a breath and have faith in themselves for ten minutes.”

Regional and state DECA competitions both include different forms of presentations and testing that determine participants’ placement. Competitors select their time slot and register for their area of competition – ranging from Accessories and Apparel to Marketing Communications – and are assigned their presentation prompt. Individuals are given ten minutes to prepare, while groups are given half an hour; following their preparation, they present their pitch to the judge for assessment.

Diabo explained her process and pitch as one that answers three main questions: “What is the best way to market this, how will you market it, and how much is it going to cost?”

Following the completion of all presentations, the top eight competitors of each category are announced and called up to the stage in front of the DECA participants’ audience, and are numbered off until they reach the first place contestant.

For Diabo, the moment she won second place was surreal: not only did she not expect to place, but she and her best friend were both in the top eight, allowing them to celebrate the moment together.

“We’re thinking, ‘oh, we’re going to get eighth or seventh place’…but the numbers started going down – eight, seven, six, five, four, and I was just like ‘oh my gosh, what place did I get?’,” she laughed. “And I got second place, which is great. I was super excited and I ran off to celebrate…it was super unprofessional, but it was so exciting.”

Camryn Diabo (left) and Jennaveve Hernandez (right) showing their medals following placing in the regional conference. (Provided by Camryn Diabo)

Diabo expressed enthusiasm for the award, as it demonstrates and reflects the mental and mindful work she puts into DECA.

“I’ve won sports trophies before, but this is different,” she explained. “I got this with my brain.”

Like Diabo, Sutliff expressed shock at her DECA ranking.

“I was definitely surprised because even though I prepared a lot and studied a decent amount, when I pulled up to the conference and [saw] everyone else, I felt like they looked more professional and looked like they knew what they were doing more than me,” she said about her self-comparison. “I thought I did okay – I didn’t think I did phenomenal, but I guess the judges liked what I said so it was really exciting.”

14 placements was not the only success that CKHS DECA saw in this regional competition: Capas was also elected Area 7 President.

Capas will serve alongside 10 other Area presidents in Washington state to “plan all the DECA events and competitions” as well as “running the area 7 DECA Instagram” and potentially visiting other Washington Areas and their DECA organizations. 

She had to go through a testing and interview process before campaigning at the event and eventually giving a speech before Area 7 participants. Following the vote, it was announced that Capas won the election.

“It was crazy…I was so excited,” she recalled. “The biggest thing was that walking into a DECA conference last year, there was so much diversity….everyone was really dedicated and hardworking, and it was a community that I really wanted to be more involved in.” 

The dedication and commitment to DECA by CKHS students is relatively unique; according to Sutliff, DECA is often a class offered for credit at other schools, while at CKHS it is a club that requires self-discipline and studying. 

To Sutliff, “it says a lot about how motivated our students are and how much we really want to succeed and that we’re willing to put in the work to do so.”

This hard work and determination that DECA members demonstrate is evident in their competition rankings. According to Ferate, DECA judges are instructed to never give out perfect scores of 100s to contestants. However, upon looking through CKHS student scores, two students received 99s. 

When Ferate announced these two high scores to CKHS DECA members returning from the conference, “everybody cheered…It was just incredible. The first word on the judge’s feedback was ‘Wow.’ It made me a little teary-eyed.”

CKHS DECA members often consider a business career following their experience, but regardless of their future career pursuits, many find the communication, confidence, and networking skills gained through DECA to be entirely beneficial.

“It instills a lot of really good skills like perseverance and the ability to study and take those skills into your own hands,” explained Sutliff.

After several years of advising DECA, Ferate has found that “All around, it gives [students] confidence…It’s just personal growth and learning and meeting people, and now they can meet DECA people from all over.”

Area 7 president-elect Capas highlighted these connections: “I really think it’s just about building skills outside of just business,” she emphasized. “DECA’s motto is ‘emerging leaders and entrepreneurs’, so having all those students that are going through DECA, you build a lot of confidence through that program and you build a lot of really good relationships.”

This growth that is developed through DECA is key to student success. “I love to watch the Today Show, and they had a happiness expert that said ‘the main thing that affects your happiness is relationships and people and being around people’,” Ferate established.

These relationships and self-confidence that DECA builds and instills is reflected in DECA members’ growth.

Diabo recalls, “When I won, I was like ‘oh, maybe I am good at this!’…It’s taught me really great skills and how to expand my mindset.” 

DECA Area 7 President Capas said it best: “CK swept at competition.”


Congratulations to all CKHS DECA winners:

Jazmyn Budke, Business Services Marketing, 7th; Ferrah Capas & Marisa Oishi, Entrepreneurship, 2nd; Camryn Diabo, Sports/Entertainment Marketing, 2nd; Davie Dinkins, Retail Merchandising, 1st; Sophia Driskell, Business Finance, 4th; Jennaveve Hernandez, Sports/Entertainment Marketing, 3rd; Sarah Lawrence, Apparel & Accessories Marketing, 4th; Annika Pexton, Business Finance, 5th; Yana Mathew & Lillian Quinn, Travel & Tourism, 4th; Shayla Sutliff, Business Finance, 1st; Katelyn Topness, Marketing Communications, 2nd; Maddi Tran, Marketing Communications, 8th