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CDC students who participating in the DECA state competition. From left: Layne Trofton, Otis Selib, Antonio Mintrone, Shea Mooney, Nathan Prouty, Emily Hunt, Hailey Cone, Logan Davis. (Supplied photo)

BENNINGTON -- Eight students from the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center traveled to Burlington in February to compete in the statewide DECA competition, and are now preparing to travel to nationals in Atlanta in early May.

DECA, formerly known as the Distributive Education Clubs of America, is an international association of high school and college students and teachers of marketing, management, and entrepreneurship. The organization, founded in 1946, is designed to prepare leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, management, and other business areas.

Combined, the CDC students received eight gold medals, three silver medals, two bronze medals, and one honorable mention. They competed against 140 other students from across the state.

CDC students placed in five categories. In the Poster Contest, Emily Hunt placed first for hand-drawn posters and Otis Selib placed first for computer generated posters. In the category of Public Speaking, Selib placed first. In Apparel and Accessories Marketing, Nathan Prouty finished in first place and Antonio Mintrone finished in second, with Mintrone finishing in first place on the written portion. Overall in Apparel and Accessories Marketing, Mintrone finished in first place and received a $1,000 scholarship to Johnson and Wales, and a $2,500 scholarship to the University of Southern New Hampshire. Prouty finished in third place overall in that category, and received a $500 scholarship to University of Southern New Hampshire and a $1,500 scholarship to Johnson and Wales.

In the category of Business Services Marketing, Selib placed first, second in the professional development portion, and third on the written test, good for second place overall in the category, which earned him a $1,500 scholarship to USNH. In the Hotel and Lodging category, Hunt placed first place in the customer relations section, leading to her receiving an honorable mention.

CDC's DECA advisor, Lauri Wright, said students in the Marketing I and Marketing II classes at the CDC sign up for DECA at the beginning of the year. In the competition, she said students "look at different scenarios to practice, then they go before the judges to be judged on how well they handle the scenario they receive. It could be that you're the owner of a business and your products would be made overseas. You have to demonstrate the skills to answer the judges' questions in an appropriate time and with knowledge. I know one of my students had to justify why his products were made in China and why it was in the best interest of the company. He handled it really well and was commended for his professional manner."

Nationals will take place in Atlanta from May 2 through 7, and will feature over 14,000 young men and women competing in events similar to those they saw at the state level.

Many of the eight CDC students who participated in states will be present for nationals as well, but Wright noted that a few wouldn't be able to attend, as there were conflicts with spring sports. "We will all miss them, but I do understand their dedication to their teammates," said Wright.

Asked what they aspire to after graduation, some of Wright's students said they wanted to attend college, own their own business, go into graphic design, or simply be a productive member of society.

"The students I have in DECA are some of the nicest kids in the school," said Wright, "I feel very fortunate to be their advisor and to work alongside them. Teamwork is what we stress at CDC and these wonderful students make it very easy. The CDC is an excellent opportunity for the youth here in Bennington and in the surrounding area."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB