June 4, 2024

DECA’s Amazing Year

Ames High’s DECA chapter had an extraordinarily successful year, marked by numerous accomplishments and memorable experiences during the 2023-24 school year. With over 120 students expressing interest at the fall club fair, the momentum built quickly, culminating in significant achievements at several major competitions: the District Competition, the State Career Development Conference, and the International Career Development Conference (ICDC).

As their mission, DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. DECA is organized into two unique student divisions, high school and collegiate, each with programs designed to address its members’ learning styles, interests, and focus. 

This year, the Ames High DECA team had a particularly amazing ICDC in Anaheim, California. Sophia Timmermans and Fatimah Naraghi were awarded the prestigious DECA glass for securing 3rd place in their DECA at The Bell episode. Fatimah became Iowa’s first-ever executive officer and was elected the Central Region Vice President. Additionally, Alex Gatiba was recognized on stage for his ROTC Scholarship. 

“ICDC is always such an amazing experience. Because I was part of Fatimah’s campaign team, my ICDC experience looked a lot different than it has in past years,” senior Sophia Timmermans said. “I had the privilege of assisting her with her caucusing and the election process as a whole. I met so many amazing, young professionals through that experience, and am so happy I was able to help Fatimah with the election process.”

Developing emerging leaders is the core of the DECA experience. For AHS junior Fatimah Naraghi, ICDC was a particularly surreal event.

“This was my third year attending, and I got to experience it from all sides,” she shares. “I started as a competitor in 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia, then as a state officer and top 10 international finalist last year in Orlando, Florida,” Naraghi said. “Throughout the week, I worked on my candidacy day and night, caucusing, making social media content, giving speeches, being interviewed, and many meet and greets, but I still managed to enjoy California while I was at it. Although it was probably the most exhausting week of my life, especially with prom and cheerleading worlds right after, it was also the most rewarding and I’m so grateful for every single second of it!”

DECA’s competitive events can be grouped into three broad categories: role—plays, case studies, prepared events, and online simulations. Within each category and type of event, DECA offers a variety of options in each of the four career clusters — marketing, finance, hospitality, and management — as well as entrepreneurship and personal financial literacy. Students competing all hope to take home the coveted DECA glass, the glass trophy awarded to the first, second, and third-place finishers in each category.

“It was so surreal to be awarded with glass. Fatimah, our advisor, Mrs. Schieffer, and I put so many hours into our project and holding that glass made it all worth it,” Timmermans added. “In my earlier years with DECA, earning glass always seemed so unachievable and almost like a fantasy. I am so happy we were able to be some of, if not, the first members in Iowa DECA history to earn glass. It felt good to be able to bring those awards and recognition to Iowa, who is one of the smallest associations in the world!”

“It means the absolute world to me! Coming from a particularly smaller state, it’s incredible that my partner and I were able to defy the odds, make history, and bring home glass, something no Iowa DECA member has ever done before,” Naraghi added. “I’ve been a DECA member since my freshman year. I realized that you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, regardless of the size of your state and what others say. Finding success in DECA has made it my main goal, as the Central Region Vice President for the High School Division, to spread this message to all DECA members globally. I hope that by winning this prestigious award, as a Persian woman from one of the smallest populated states in DECA, I can inspire someone else to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams as well!”

Naraghi also made DECA history as she became Iowa’s first-ever executive officer and was elected as the Central Region Vice President.

“It is absolutely surreal to have the honor of being 1 of 5 individuals serving over 260,000 like-minded members worldwide! Not only do I get to live out my dream of being an empowered woman in a particularly male-dominated industry, but I also have the opportunity to make a positive impact on a broader scale,” Naraghi adds. “This role allows me to inspire and support others, demonstrating that regardless of the challenges or the size of the community you come from, success is attainable. It’s incredibly fulfilling to contribute to the growth and development of DECA members globally, fostering an environment where everyone can achieve their dreams and goals.”

The DECA experience has profoundly impacted members, fostering leadership and professional development during and following their time as students at Ames High. 

“I am so glad I chose to join DECA my freshman year. It has helped me develop so much as a leader/professional, introduced me to some of the most amazing people, and given me experiences I never could have dreamed of,” Timmermans reflected. “My experience the past four years has been very unique but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Timmermans hopes to participate in collegiate DECA next year, where she will attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas, to study Marketing with a focus on Sports, Strategy, and Sales. Naraghi enters her senior year at Ames High with ambitions that extend beyond DECA. She aspires to study economics and marketing at an out-of-state university and eventually climb the corporate ladder to become a CEO.