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As a high school student, I’m involved in many activities. One of them is competing in DECA.

I’ve seen success, but it hasn’t always been easy competing in DECA with hearing loss.

What is DECA?

“DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe,” according to the DECA website.

To expand on that, it’s a highly competitive business competition for high school students from all around the world. You can compete in two categories, either participating in a role-play or an event. Choosing to compete in a role-play means you’ll choose from a plethora of topics such as hospitality and tourism, business finance, or even entrepreneurship. Once you choose your area of competition, you’ll take a comprehensive online test. This counts towards your overall score in conjunction with a mock interview or business proposal meeting. These meetings involve sitting down and presenting your ideas with a volunteer who is often well versed in the area of competition. The role-plays start at district level competitions and go all the way to international competition.

The other option you have to compete in is an event. This involves a project such as community service, where you create an event within your school to raise awareness or funds for an organization. From there you have to write an essay-like paper (anywhere from 10-50 pages) and prepare a presentation for a judge. Events usually start at the state level competition and go to internationals. One of the hardest parts about DECA is the preparation and confidence needed.


I have been competing in DECA since my freshman year of high school. In my first year, I participated in the entrepreneurship role play. I was the only freshman to make it to the state-level from my school that year. I had a great time and met some amazing people. Unfortunately, I did not advance to the international level after that point. The following year, I was determined to make it to the international level after promising a friend I had competed with that I would. I competed in the Business Growth Plan event, where I had to propose how I was going to grow the business that I already owned. Fortunately for me, I own my own salsa company, Detroit Salsa Company. Practicing my presentation every day and writing a 20-page paper got me my spot as a state champion.

What made this even better was the fact that I was the first sophomore to ever make it to internationals from my high school DECA chapter! At the international competition, which was held in Orlando, Florida, I had a great week presenting and visiting Disney World for the first time ever! Alas, I did not place in the competition there, as I was competing against others from across the country. I was proud of what I had achieved!

This year I am currently competing in an event called School-Based Enterprise certification, which is a project that up to three students can compete in together to “certify” their school store through DECA. My partner Elliot and I are competing with our school’s clothing company, Wyandotte Tees. This involves us writing a 50-page paper about everything from our daily opening routine to how we receive shipments. We are anxiously awaiting our results to see if we made it to internationals.

Hearing the judges

Despite making it to this level of DECA success, I have faced lots of challenges. One of my biggest struggles was hearing the judge in the noisy competition room. When you compete, you are assigned a judge who is usually in some kind of ballroom or exhibit hall. There are usually over 50 judges in one room. Each judge is going through a different presentation, so there are often lots of different conversations and noises going on. I actually had to ask a judge to repeat a question last year. They were very helpful with repeating after I explained why I couldn’t hear them! It helped me to realize that the judges aren’t going to be mad at me or dock points because I ask them to repeat themselves. Having the confidence needed to ask for someone to repeat something is something that lots of people with hearing loss struggle with around the world. People often think that they can just wing it, but when you are put into a situation like this with a judge, clarity is key!

My biggest piece of advice here would be to always ask for someone to repeat themselves if necessary. There should never be a situation where you are unsure as to what is happening. To build this confidence, start small. When you can’t understand something a family member or friend says, ask them to repeat it. Slowly build this up to where you feel comfortable asking anyone to repeat something for you. There should never be a situation where you can’t ask for repetition.

“My biggest piece of advice here would be to always ask for someone to repeat themselves if necessary.”

Hearing my DECA partner

Another struggle was being able to hear my partner in the dead silent planning room in which you could hear a pin drop. Luckily, I was able to understand and hear everything he said, but it wasn’t ideal. I do have to credit a good portion of my ability to understand his whispering to my Phonak Marvels, which have truly changed how I hear. Everything has been so much clearer. I’ve never been able to hear whispers and quiet like I can now! Fortunately for me and my partner, our event worked out great. We are advancing to states with our back-up role play in case our project doesn’t make it.

Read more: What my debate competitions taught me about advocacy

My hearing loss doesn’t stop me

One of my driving factors throughout high school and life is to not let my hearing loss hold me back from anything. My view on my hearing loss is knowing that it is a part of me. Just because I have a hearing loss, it should not stop me from doing the things I love and am passionate about. Although I may not have the worst hearing loss possible, I still have had to do activities in different ways because of my loss. My ultimate goal is to never allow my hearing loss to hold me back from my dreams. DECA is one of those dreams!

Author Details
Finn Gomez is a 15-year-old with bilateral hearing loss. In his right ear, he has mild to moderately-severe hearing loss, and in his left ear, he has moderate to severe loss. He currently uses Phonak Marvel hearing aids in both ears. You can find him performing with the Legends Drum and Bugle Corps or performing with the DSO Philharmonic Orchestra.