SAHS DECA students setting records

These South Aiken High won two first place awards in state DECA competition for their project in behalf of the Aiken County Child Advocacy Center. From left are Sarah Fox, Jordan Beeler, Hannah Kerrigan, Ashley Skinner and club president Danielle Smith.

The South Aiken High School DECA team recorded a new level of success at the DECA State Competition in Charleston recently with 23 students combining on 10 first-place medals. Three more students received a second-place award, and four others earned an honorable mention. The South Aiken students have now qualified to attend the International DECA Competition in Salt Lake City, Utah, later this spring. For five seniors, the competition project they chose proved to be both productive and poignant for the entire DECA program and for many other students throughout the school. Sarah Fox, Jordan Beeler and Hannah Kerrigan collaborated on an effort to obtain Snuggies for children who need the services of the Aiken County Child Advocacy Center and took first place in community service project. Two other students, Danielle Smith and Ashley Skinner, provided public relations for the project, also taking first place in that category. "I'm very proud of the students," said marketing teacher and DECA adviser Rob Lovejoy. "It's the first international contest for many, while several have gone to competitions the last two years. We've got a group of nine seniors who have been phenomenal, continuing to improve and do better every year." The Advocacy Center provides a safe environment and an array of services to promote healing to abused children and their families. Last summer, Fox was a hospital patient when she was given a Snuggie blanket. When she had to return to the hospital, "I took it back with me every time," Fox said. "That's when I had the idea of giving comfort to somebody else and expressed that to everyone while trying to figure out which organization it would be." Beeler had visited the advocacy center through Serteens and suggested the facility would be a good choice. The students later were given a tour by executive director Gayle Lofgren "and saw how many children are helped and the process they have to go through." The entire DECA membership participated in two fundraisers, including a Ruby Tuesday's benefit breakfast. As the word spread of the project throughout South Aiken, more students and entire classes donated to the cause. As a result, the DECA team went well over its goal. They purchased a total of 50 Snuggies and, with the additional funds, purchased a large supply of snacks and drinks for the center's vending machines. The DECA participants consider the project to be the most meaningful ever. One benefit is the reaction of their classmates, who readily donated to the cause once they understood the advocacy center's position. The students couldn't meet the children because of privacy issues; however, they had a chance to place the Snuggies in the advocacy center lobby under the tree before Christmas. Later, they saw photographs of the children with their Snuggles and with their backs turned toward the camera. Even then, the DECA students could tell how much their gifts meant to the kids. "It's a humbling thing to affect a child you don't know and make things a little better for him," Kerrigan said. Lovejoy called president Smith one of the best DECA presidents he's ever worked with. She has found the classes and outside activities tremendously beneficial. "It's been amazing," she said. "I've gained self-confidence, and I'm able to speak better in front of people. DECA has taken me places I never imagined - New York, Orlando and now Salt Lake City." Additional winners The other DECA first-place winners are as follows: Cassidy Colvin, Morgan Hudson and Camilla Grier - advertising campaign Jessica McDaniel - entrepreneurship individual event Aubry Harmon, Alaina Gay and Bryn Whitley - international business plan Lauren Scott - business services research plan Allie Blissit and Emma Nettles - fashion merchandising promotion plan Jenna Evans, Sheli Siders and Meghan Petersen - buying and merchandising research project Breanna Schroder and Katelyn Burgess - entrepreneurship team event Payton Hawkins, Aubry Owens and Liza Hamman - hospitality and tourism research project Second place Savannah Turner and Peyton Tharp - hospitality and tourism research project Dalton Stevenson - principles of marketing Honorable mention Callie Traver and Kaelyn Klipa - marketing communications team Josh Cady - employment acquisition Tanvi Patel - principles of hospitality and tourism