Pueblo East DECA sending 18 students to Colorado state DECA competition

Austin White
| The Pueblo Chieftain

Normally for their DECA competitions, students at Pueblo East High School and across the state head to an in-person meeting for their presentations and challenges. 

Obviously 2020 has forced changes with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and those DECA competitions turned into online videos. 

Despite the new challenge of having to win over judges from behind a computer screen, 18 Eagles qualified for the state competition, with a couple taking home first place from the district meet held on Nov. 17.

“This year’s districts were very different — I never really saw myself recording myself in my kitchen for DECA,” said Pueblo East junior Evan Smith, who took home first place in the professional selling category. “This year was a lot different, especially since it was taped. You could retry if you messed up which definitely made me want to do everything right.”

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Pressure isn’t new to Smith, who’s now a two-time state qualifier in boys golf to boot for the Eagles.

He beat out students from Pueblo County, Pueblo West, Pueblo Centennial, Pueblo Central and Lamar. About 500 students competed at the district conference overall.

Smith was a part of the Eagles congregation at last year’s state DECA competition at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. 

Like the district meet, this year’s state competition will also be online. Even so, Smith said having 17 of his fellow classmates make the cut and qualify for the meet “was awesome.”

“I’m just really glad that although we are at home, we are still doing our best and working hard,” Smith said. “It’s not easy.”

Here are the other 17 Eagles joining Smith at state and their finish in the district meet, including another first place finisher in Samuel Alamos:

  • Apparel and accessories management: Skylar Clark (third place); Aubrey Cortez (state qualifier)
  • Automotive service management: Sullivan DeHerrera (second place); Quadair Martin (state qualifier)
  • Entrepreneurship: Randi Garcia (state qualifier) 
  • Hotel lodging management: Brittney Byrd (state qualifier) 
  • Marketing communications: Bethany Garcia (state qualifier) 
  • Principles of business management: Alex Apodaca (state qualifier); Kayla Valdez (state qualifier) 
  • Principles of finance: Samuel Alamos (first place); Isaiah Trujillo Martinez (third place) 
  • Principles of hospitality and tourism: Marli Terry (state qualifier); Katie Austin (state qualifier); Mikea Martinez (state qualifier) 
  • Principles of marketing: Karina Ruiz (third place); Hananiah Montoya (state qualifier)
  • Sports and entertainment marketing: Amanda Reyes (second place) 

On top of the Eagles’ success individually, the group finished in second place in a statewide online fundraising campaign for Children’s Hospital of Colorado. 

What makes the Eagles’ success more impressive is the fact that virtual learning didn’t allow as much time to practice or receive guidance from Pueblo East’s DECA sponsor Jacqueline Armenta.

“We didn’t get the guidance like we did last year or the practice, for that matter,” Smith said. “I think it allowed us to be creative and to do it in our own way. The presentations were similar; however, you’re not interacting with judges so you don’t see the emotions. It’s different, but still fun.” 

Even though she couldn’t give students the normal amount of guidance this year, Armenta said she was proud of what she saw from her group and takes the positive that learning over virtual pathways is more realistic to how business is done nowadays.

“During such a difficult year where students knew that they would not be able to attend state at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, they still found the inner drive (to) strive forward,” Armenta said. “I am incredibly proud of their determination and persistence in furthering their experiences while also inviting modern day difficulties.”

Getting this experience is vital for the students in the eyes of Armenta, who was a DECA student herself.

“DECA is extremely important to students as it helps students gain skills like professionalism, public speaking and the confidence to pursue career or college post high school,” Armenta said. “I was able to gain scholarships that helped me advance my college education.” 

Smith and fellow Eagle Kristen Williams will compete for spots as Colorado DECA officers at the state competition.

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For now, the group is enjoying winter break, or at least should be, before the spring semester starts again Jan. 4 and the state competition is held at the end of February.

But Smith still has his sights on even bigger goals this upcoming spring.

“It was great, it definitely took a lot of work and it’s exciting that I get to compete at state again,” Smith said. “It’s going to be really exciting and hopefully (I’ll) get the chance to compete for nationals.”

Chieftain sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at twitter.com/ajw_sports. Help support the Chieftain and get the latest news on prep sports with a digital subscription.

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