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The Two Harbors DECA team displays its third-place trophy, given to the team for its anti-bullying public relations campaign. The students will move on to the international competition in Anaheim, Calif., in April. Submitted

Two Harbors DECA headed to international competition in Anaheim

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Anaheim, California is most famous for being home to Disneyland. However, in late April when 10 Two Harbors High School students go to Anaheim, it won't be to visit the world-famous amusement park. Instead, the students will be attending the DECA international competition, an opportunity they earned with a third-place finish at the state competition in Minneapolis earlier this month. The students beat nine other teams to earn the honor.

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"The competition was fierce," said Ashley Lax, junior and member of DECA.

DECA is an organization that prepares students for careers in marketing, management, finance and hospitality. The students learn skills throughout the year and put them into practice in competition--the THHS students have already participated in regionals and the state competition. Some of the events include public speaking, food marketing and employment interviews, for which THHS students prepare individual presentations.

As for the big winner and the main event, the team spent most of the school year preparing their "See It. Say It. Stop It." anti-bullying campaign. The DECA group, which is only in its second year at THHS, became interested in Lake Superior School District's school climate conversations and took them a step further by developing their own public relations campaign to make students more aware of bullying.

Ten students helped with the campaign. They created a Facebook page, a Twitter account and YouTube videos to tell stories of bullying and teach students how to deal with it. But their focus wasn't only on helping kids who are victims of bullying. They asked all students to pledge to stop bullying when they see it happen. They gave presentations in all the district schools as well as at North Shore Community School and gave wristbands to students who signed pledges to stop bullying. Then, they packaged and distributed their campaign to schools in other districts, encouraging the implementation of the campaign's strategies.

"The team had to summarize their project in a 30-page manual that was submitted to the judges prior to the state competition. We found out that we did qualify for the next round of competition, which was to present our project in front of the judges in a 15-minute presentation," DECA advisor Julie Benson wrote in an e-mail to the News-Chronicle.

Their score on the presentation portion combined with their score on the manual captured third place in the public relations category.

"As you can imagine, we are extremely excited," Benson said.

The excitement was palpable in the classroom last Thursday, with the students excitedly brainstorming to overcome the next big hurdle--fundraising. The 10 students will travel to Anaheim with two chaperones, and they expect the trip to cost $1,000 per person.

They have set up an account at Two Harbors Federal Credit Union for collecting donations and they will be bagging groceries at the Super One in Two Harbors in exchange for contributions. They will also be selling raffle tickets. Winners will receive cash prizes.

The students are reveling in their success and the prospect of a trip to California, but they know the benefits of the experience will remain long after their trip to Anaheim.

"It doesn't end after high school," said senior Ryan Purrier, who added that teamwork was a skill the entire team learned and can apply long after they've moved on from THHS.

Watch the News-Chronicle for more information on the fundraising efforts of the DECA group and how to help.

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