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girls with first-place trophy

Westonka Seniors Take Top Prize at DECA Internationals

By Becca Neuger, 05/08/24, 10:15PM CDT


Seniors Olivia Adam and Gabriella Larsen emerged as champions, taking first place for their Eli Hart Playground Chapter Project.

Mound Westonka High School sent a record 40 students to the 2024 DECA International Career Development Conference (ICDC) April 26-30 in Anaheim, California, where they competed against over 22,000 business and marketing students from around the world. Seniors Olivia Adam and Gabriella Larsen emerged as champions, taking first place for their Eli Hart Playground Chapter Project. This was the first time a Westonka chapter project has earned one of the coveted glass trophies at Internationals.

Four other Westonka teams were recognized for high placement at ICDC. Juniors Anna Borg and Emma Carlson and senior Maquinna Peglow advanced to the finals for their Community Awareness Chapter Project, Be Like Tommy, placing eighth overall. Sophomores Hayden Dehmer and Leon Kravchenko and junior Ajay Kirmeier finished in 10th place in the Virtual Business Challenge – Sports. Also earning a 10th-place finish were seniors Isaac Paul and Rocco Zahasky in the Virtual Business Challenge - Hotel. Senior Natalie Miner and junior Stella Miner placed in the Top 20 for their Career Development Chapter Project, Like A Girl.

Also competing at Internationals were seniors Jack Hall, Bryce Helms, Sammy Krahl, Hailey Lockwood, Kendra Mattson, Jack Moch, Addison Nash, Cassie Nemecek, Chloe Rice and Maisie Wheeler; juniors Ruby Finck, Eliott Lang, Camille Ness, Gracie O’Halloran and Lauren Velander; sophomores Ali Butler, Sienna Dehmer, Georgia Harmer, Allison Kreiser, Maria Neumann and Sydney Reier; and ninth graders Addison Bryan, Annika Hagen, August Lang, Ella McClellan, Val Mobagi, Lizzy Nash and Sky Nienaber.

Bringing Home Glass

Adam and Larsen competed in the Business Solution Chapter Project category, where DECA chapters attempt to solve a current problem within an existing business or organization. Over the past 11 plus months, the students collaborated with the board members of the Eli Hart Foundation to help raise the remaining funds needed to build a community playground in Mound. Construction for the new playground is now underway at Surfside Park.

In past years, Adam and Larsen’s focused on hypothetical scenarios in their DECA projects, but this year they wanted to work on something tangible. “Through this chapter project, we were granted the opportunity to make a real impact in our community and act on our ideas in a highly positive way,” Larsen said.

After four years of involvement with DECA, their number one goal in their senior year was to “win glass” at Internationals. “Both of us were so happy to present this project and were proud of all the work we had done,” Adam said. “Our judge was impressed with the amount of money raised and the end results seen in our community. After this presentation, I had a feeling we could place well, but I didn't expect first place!” 

“When I heard our names being called, I felt a wave of emotions; memories of Olivia and I working on various projects throughout our entire high school careers and thinking of how proud our younger selves would be of us made me very emotional,” Larsen said. 

“I was so proud of everything we had worked for, and now we finally witnessed it pay off,” Adam added. “The most memorable part was when Gabriella and I stepped off stage and saw a man weaving through the crowd, sprinting towards us. It was none other than Mr. Wagner running up to us with open arms.”

About Westonka DECA

DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. DECA enhances the preparation for college and careers by providing co-curricular programs that integrate into classroom instruction, apply learning, connect to business, and promote competition. The Westonka DECA program is led by advisors Alex Wagner, Sue Simonson, Nelson Krause and Maggie Carlson.

Olivia Adam and Gabriella Larsen

Olivia Adam and Gabriella Larsen placed first in their Business Solution Chapter Project, Eli Hart Playground