Tupelo High School DECA students win big at international conference

Junior Connor O'Daniel gets in the Top 10, while Senior Simar Gill places in the Top 20

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Tupelo High School made a big splash at the recent international conference for a well-known career and technical student organization.

It is Connor O’Daniel’s second year in DECA, and the Tupelo High School junior worked hard all year preparing for the organization’s international conference.

“I had to basically make a system that would hold virtual employees who worked from home accountable and make sure they were being productive,” O’Daniel said.

O’Daniel, who is a junior, placed in the top 10 in professional selling with his presentation and written test.

Senior Simar Gill made it in the top 20 in the financial consulting category.

“I had to convince a bank owner to go completely virtual so I did some research and figured out what is the cost of having banks in person, versus virtual, and created my own bank to present to the judge,” Gill said.

It was a big achievement for Tupelo High School and its DECA club.

“It had been at least 25 years since Tupelo had a student reach this status at international competition,” said Brookes Prince, who teaches business, marketing, and finance and is the DECA Advisor at THS. She took 24 students to the group’s International Career Development Conference.

The students advanced from this year’s state contest. Prince said the DECA program has grown in size and quality since she came to THS 10 years ago.

“It all goes back to students. They recruit to bring new students into the club. Other students see their success and want to be part of that,” Prince said.

“I decided my career based on DECA, changed my mind about 12 times in high school about what I wanted to do, and being part of the marketing and economics class, competing at DECA competition, made me realize the things I’m good at,” Gill said.

“DECA has prepared me with speaking skills, public speaking skills, how to speak to people, and come up with a topic that makes sense and goes to next round and wins,” O’Daniel said.

One of the DECA slogans is: “Not Just High School, but DECA for life.”  Indeed, the skills students are learning in the classroom and at competitions, are preparing them for the real world.

Connor O’Daniel is already preparing for next year’s DECA competitions. Simar Gill will go to George Washington University where she will major in political science.

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