WEST FORSYTH — More than 400 students from Forsyth County high schools competed in the recent state DECA conference, but the winner pulled off an upset.
West Forsyth took home first place in the state out of 110 teams, topping South Forsyth’s usually dominant group of marketing and business students.
“Last year, 76 percent of the students we took got in the top 20 percent,” said Kathy Kemp, West’s marketing/DECA adviser. “We’re going in stronger than ever now. This is the best year we’ve had since West opened [in 2007].”
She attributed the success of the club with 144 competitors to “a marketing dream team of four full-time marketing teachers who each has a strength in the program. To have a team where everyone is working for the same objective and same goal.
“Business planning is my strength, and role play is [David] Rooney. Andy Coleman has the technology specialization. Gwen Belue does chapter events and the prom fashion show.”
Individuals and teams competed in myriad conference events, ranging from business operation research and professional selling events to entrepreneurship promotion and marketing management. The higher they place in each event, the more points they accumulate.
“David Rooney is our lead adviser and coach, and he gets the kids to be competitive,” she said. “… It’s a friendly competition, but it’s what drives everyone to do better.”
South took more than 160 students and came in second by placing in 74 events and earning 392 points.
West placed in 76 events with 452 points. It had 15 first-place and 13 second-place winners, while South had 10 in each. First through 10thplace were awarded points.
Kemp said 21 kids throughout Georgia ran for state office. West had two, Nathanial Smith and Tanner Samples, and both won.
All five Forsyth high schools fared well at the conference.
Lambert came in third, placing in 22 events for 132 points, and North Forsyth placed in 10 events for 74 points, coming in sixth.
Forsyth Central, which has the newest marketing program in the county (it opened in fall 2011), ended up in 15th place, with 36 points by placing in seven events.
Emily Henderson, a DECA adviser at Central, said 12 of 20 students placed.
“Our program is still one of the underdogs in the county … We’re looking forward to growing and being in the same ball game as the rest of the county in a few years.”
But the fact that every Forsyth County high school placed in the top 15 — and four in the top six — speaks for itself.
“It’s not just about the competition,” West’s Kemp said. “It’s about giving these kids opportunities and experiences that will build character for their entire lives.
“[Other] DECA schools hate Forsyth County [teams],” she said. “The kids work really really hard. It’s something that Forsyth County is just known for at competitions.”