Hough High students Amber Merk and McKenzie Martin smile while displaying their hardware for claiming top marketing honors in international DECA competition.


CORNELIUS – Paced by a first-place finish in the Marketing Team Decision Making category, students in the DECA program from Hough High School made a strong showing in international competition in Orlando, Fla.

Hough’s Amber Merk and McKenzie Martin were the overall champs in the competitive marketing category while other Hough students earned “medalist” and “finalist” status at the competition, a highlight of the annual DECA International Career Development Conference.

More than 19,000 high school students, advisers, business owners and DECA alumni gathered for programs and presentations at the main event – the final results of yearlong student efforts in career-development and business-related fields.

Other Hough students earning recognition at the international level included:

Jessica Clarke and Trent Couse, Top 20 Finalists in Buying and Merchandising Team Decision Making; Morgan Tsui, Top 20 Finalist in Hospitality and Tourism Professional Selling; Ashley Drew, a Test Medalist in Restaurant and Food Service Management; and Jacquelyn Kopchinsky, a Role Play Medalist in Sports and Entertainment Marketing.

DECA, formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America, is now an expansive, multifaceted educational program with activities targeting a wide scope of professional development. DECA is designed to prepare high school and college students to be leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management areas.

DECA organizations, with more than 215,000 participants, are in place in all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and also in Canada, China, Mexico, Guam and throughout Europe. There are 2,500 high school chapters and 275 college-level DECA programs.

Since it was founded in 1946, more than 10 million students, educators, school administrators and business professionals have been involved in DECA.

DECA programs and activities constantly evolve through the application of new technology and educational research to support the mission of preparing young people for professional careers.

Hough’s program is directed by Marketing Education instructor Katie Osteen.

To learn more about the international program, competitions and other details, visit


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