HOWARD HIGH School's DECA group is just 2 years old, but already it has captured the state championship and shown it can be a national presence.
DECA (not an acronym) is a national student organization that focuses on business management, entrepreneurship and marketing. Students compete in state and national events that highlight their business acumen.
Howard High has the largest DECA chapter in the state, with 133 members. At the Maryland State Leadership Development Conference, held March 8-10 in Hagerstown, Howard High students captured 48 recognition awards for ranking among the top six in their categories, 38 individual trophies and a first-place win for overall performance. Competition categories include advertising campaign event, food marketing, financial services and free-enterprise economics.
Students who received first-place trophies are Kim Hair, Megan Allen, Kate Tyson, John Higgins, Alexis Ohanian, Erika Robinson, Jessica Howard, Lauren LePage, Jarret Jeffery, Bryan Hughes, Dan Lichtenstein, Nathan Kohler, Kristina Dronenburg, April Douville, Kristin Gormus, Tracie Jackson, Maya Howard, Kyle Hnilicka, Linda Tran, Anthony Durham, Nisha Patel, Leslie Sealey, Reeba Thomas, Allison Peltier, Tracy Waclawski, Merrial Daley and Bryan Pashigian.
Last year, the organization placed third in the state, said DECA adviser Debra Dear, who teaches economics courses at Howard High.
After this year's state conference, 20 students attended DECA's national conference in Anaheim, Calif., April 25-29. In all, 13,000 DECA students from across the nation took part in competitive events and leadership workshops there, she said.
In that event, Alexis Ohanian received a medallion for his performance as one of the top five contestants in the nation in a role-playing event for business services marketing. He was awarded $500 for designing a Web page for 7-Up.
Other students who received awards are Kristina Dronenburg, Lauren LePage and Kate Tyson.
Three students have been made state officers, Dear said. Hillary Cole is president, Brian Hughes is a vice president and April Douville is the state secretary.
A great thing about DECA, said Dear, is that it gets kids involved in their community. DECA projects this year included raising money for the Red Cross and taking pets to visit elderly people.
"I just love what it does for the kids, how it helps to build their confidence," Dear said.
A Knowledge-A-Thon at Deep Run Elementary in Elkridge raised more than $5,200 for the school.
Schoolchildren asked community members to give money for each correct answer on a test. Pupils with high scores got a popcorn party and put their names in a hat to win a limousine ride and lunch. Twenty-one children - three from each grade - won rides donated by LIMO-LIMO in Laurel.
On May 16, the younger kids went to a lunch donated by McDonald's, while the older pupils chose a lunch donated by That's Amore in Columbia.
The project was organized with the help of many people, including Pam Baumgartner, Jodie Binkley, Anne Bostancic, Phaedra Budman, Edna Cary, Gretchen Conley, Dora Encina, Eileen Foster, Tracy German, Madeline Jones, Kelly Leonardi, Gail Rose, Dorothea Sample, Laura Smit, Lynne Teoman, Sandy Wigler and Vera Williams.
The biggest thanks go to the parents, who helped their kids study, and to the community for giving the school so much support.
A few weeks ago, this column mentioned Kavita Shukla, a Centennial High School junior who took first place at the Baltimore Science Fair and was heading for California for the International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose.
Kavita won $3,000 by taking first place in her category. She also won two awards of $500 each, said Michelle Bagley, the Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher for Centennial.
More than 1,200 students from 43 countries competed in 14 categories, Bagley said. Kavita's category, environmental science, was the largest, with about 300 entries.
"I was also shocked and pleased to be named an Intel Excellence in Teaching Award winner," Bagley said. "There were seven teachers selected from those in attendance. I received $5,000 and a mobile computer from Intel. What an honor."
Special Olympics softball
About 200 competitors were scheduled to attend the fourth annual Special Olympics Softball Invitational at Kiwanis Wallace Park in Ellicott City yesterday.
Sixteen teams from 10 counties and Baltimore City were scheduled to participate. The games were open to athletes of all ages.
Teams were organized according to ability, and each game lasted 90 minutes.
A skills competition was held for athletes not ready for team play.
The day began with opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. County Executive James N. Robey made introductory remarks.
The tournament was a qualifier for the state's summer games, which will be held June 8-10 in College Park.
Special Olympics athletes have a degree of mental retardation but not necessarily a physical disability.