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Oak Harbor graduates take home national DECA awards
Two former Oak Harbor High School DECA members took home top awards after competing with college students from across the nation in business and leadership-related contests.
Nathan Young and Sasha Olson, who graduated from Oak Harbor in 2010 and 2011, respectively, went to DECA’s national collegiate competition in Washington, D.C. on April 23.
The four-day competition ended with Young winning first place in an individual retail management competition, and Olson placing third with her teammate in the international marketing competition.
The competition had contestants from all 50 states and Canada, with a total of about 1,600 students.
Young and Olson, who now attend Gonzaga University in Spokane, started the DECA club at the college three years ago.
“It was my idea just because Gonzaga didn’t really have anything to offer that related to the business realm and going to conferences,” said Olson.
It took the pair most of a year to get the club officially started.
Young said their first competing year included only nine people. This year, 16 members qualified for the national competition.
“We’re growing rapidly. We’re having really great success,” said Young. “The school administrators that have been watching us are kind of shocked at our success.”
Young said he joined DECA at Oak Harbor High School because Eric Peterson, the DECA teacher, “almost forced” him to join the club.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do as a sophomore in high school,” he said.
Now, Young is in his final year of university, majoring in business and marketing. He already has a job working in the product management sector for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Seattle.
“I think if I hadn’t done DECA, it would have taken me a lot longer to find a solid job that I really thought I would enjoy,” he said. “I would have eventually found it, but being in DECA really made it that much easier.”
Young recommend students participate in DECA, especially in high school, where DECA is “huge.”
“Even if you don’t go into business, the skills it prepares you with, the networking it gives you, all of those things are extremely helpful,” said Young.
He said that DECA improved his presentation and social skills, among other things, and that DECA “really set me up on a path for success.”
For both Young and Olson, their success in the recent competition is the result of years of effort.
“To me it feels like a culmination of six years of hard work,” said Young.
Olson said that DECA “was one of the best experiences” of her life.
“We worked really hard all throughout the semester,” she said of her and her team partner, Gena Hoxha.
Young had one thing he really wanted to say about DECA: “If you’re a business in Oak Harbor, donate, make a donation to Oak Harbor High School DECA. They’re trying desperately to raise money for nationals.”
The high school’s DECA team has members qualifying for the national competition, which is May 3 through May 6, in Atlanta, Ga.