Everyone has their niche in high school, for some it’s sports, for some it’s writing, and others it’s music. However, for Jackson Memorial High School sophomore Kaitlyn Molnar, it’s the ins and outs of business and entrepreneurship, and her talents and business acumen are already taking her to a national competition for DECA.

This is the first year JMHS has had a DECA club, which is a nationally based organization preparing students for careers in business, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship. The school recently participated in regional and state competitions, ending up with a state championship.

Their success thus far has earned them a spot in the national championships in Salt Lake City, Utah April 28th to May 1st.

While business practices might not seem like a competition sport, Lisa Scott, business teacher at JMHS and DECA adviser, explains there is a competitive aspect students had to go through while going to the state championships. She says students are given a timed 100 question test, and then participate in two role plays.

“Where they sit down with an expert in field, they are given a situation they have to propose as solution and then role play with the expert.”

The role plays are graded on a rubric bases and Scott says there are performance dimensions that the judged need to follow. Factors include performance indicators students must fulfill, they are also judged on professionalism, the way the student handles themselves, proper usage of terms and vernacular.

The score from the role play is averaged out with the test score and results are given on the regional level.

Scott says out of the 31 students they brought to the regional completion, 21 qualified to participate on the state level. Once at the state level the high school also performed very well. Scott says they had 2 students finish in the top twelve, making them finalists in their categories, two students won first place for their role plays, and Kaitlyn Molnar who placed first place overall. Earning her a spot on the big stage.

Molnar’s specialty is the principals of business category. She says Kaitlyn took an into to business class her freshmen and that gave her a base to excel.

“She prepped by studying tests, by doing some situational role plays with myself and my co advisor and she just really impressed the judges both at the regional and the state level. “

Scott says teachers do the best they can to help students prepare, including providing practice test and always being available to coach them or answer any questions hey may have.  That includes practicing business role-plays and run through scenarios.

“We give them an opportunity to really just tide the waters, give them other kinds of tips in terms of how do you best present to an expert in field. What kinds of resources do you have at your fingertips at these role-plays that you then can turn into something with more meaning.”  Says Scott.

Adding, the students have to be creative since they essentially walk into each role play with only one piece of paper and a pencil.

Scott says she never expected to get such amazing results from her students in the first year of the club. However raising the money for so many championship participant members is something they also didn’t plan for.

“We fund-raised stringently, it was not enough. We have reached out to the community; we have had a lot of support here at Jackson [Memorial High School]. The students are definitely kicking in money of their own to get to nationals.”

The five day event in Salt Lake City entails not only the competitions, but also a charity 5k with a fund-raising element, leadership conferences, as well as college and educational information for post high school plans.

Kaitlyn went into the year with very measured expectations, thinking that since it was her first year she would have a lot of stiff competition from experienced participants.

“People were saying this was their second or third year doing it, and I didn’t even know what to wear to the competitions so I just went into it being carefree about it.”

She says what judges look for in the role plays, isn’t necessarily what you say but how you say it.

“I knew some things I wasn’t sure about, but I calmly asked them to say it again and make them think that I know what I’m talking about and I know how to present myself.”

Molnar says she has aspirations to be an architect and after taking DECA, her aspirations jumped from working for a firm to starting out on her own with her own business.