Whitman Juniors in Team Business event.

Juniors Justin Yang and Rohin Dahiya exchange a hug after winning first place in their event at the ICDC.

Whitman juniors Justin Yang and Rohin Dahiya won first place in the “Buying and Merchandising Team Decision-Making” event at the DECA International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Atlanta in late April. 

More than 400 students competed in the role-play event, which allots teams 30 minutes to prepare a presentation that analyzes a business scenario. The duo received a $1,000 check and a trophy for their performance, marking Whitman DECA’s first time winning the top spot at the international competition. 

DECA also sponsors regional and state conferences throughout the year to aid future leaders in achieving their educational and career ambitions in marketing, finance, management and hospitality. To qualify for the ICDC, competitors must place among the top four contestants in their event at a state conference. 

For the “Buying and Merchandising Team Decision-Making” event, one team member serves as the Director of Marketing and the other serves as Director of Merchandising. Yang and Dahiya both assumed roles as vice presidents for a failing pharmacy chain, and organizers tasked them with creating a new product and marketing strategy to save the enterprise.

The two juniors developed a plan to create a pharmacy department focused on preventative care through the collection of bloodwork and Pap smears. To market the preventative-based approach, Dahiya proposed targeting social media advertising at individuals with specific health concerns that require frequent monitoring and medical attention.

“I’m really proud of what Rohin and I came up with,” Yang said. “We decided that we needed to really swing for the fences with something bold.”

In their presentation, the duo explained that focusing on prevention would differentiate their enterprise from competing national chains. 

More than 1,900 students, business professionals, teachers and DECA alumni convened at the annual conference. With qualifiers from around the world vying for recognition, Whitman DECA’s win was “historic,” club advisor Demitra Marafatsos said.

“I was confident we’d be up in the ranks, but I didn’t know we’d win first place,” Marafatsos said.“This is monumental. That’s unheard of because the competition is fierce.”

As a part of the competition, teams also completed an exam that contained questions related to their event. DECA officials considered competitors’ exam scores and evaluated their role-play presentations to select the finalists for each event. 

However, the duo wasn’t expecting to win the top award when conference organizers began to announce the results for the Buying and Merchandising event, Yang said. 

“We thought we didn’t win anything since the judges had already called all the winners,” Yang said. “But when our name was eventually called for first place it was a crazy relief.”

Other members of Whitman’s DECA club also found success at the conference, with sophomores Arjun Mohan and Emily Owens earning recognition as finalists in their respective events. Sophomore Lucia Gutierrez also received a medal for her performance in the “Human Resources Management” event.

After many of the school’s competitors joined the club without prior experience in their event, Whitman DECA president Noah Pearlman, a senior, said that he was especially proud of the chapter’s progress this year.

“Rohin and Justin, along with the entire club, have worked really hard on their respective events,” Pearlman said. “The future of the club is going to be great.”

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