Julia Wittrock has achieved something that only a handful of other student have done in the history of Coon Rapids High School.
Wittrock placed third in competition at the international DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) competition in Salt Lake City, Utah, earlier this month.
“Julia is just the fifth DECA member in the history of Coon Rapids High School DECA to place either first, second or third at international competition,” said teacher Blake Bodenburg, DECA coordinator.
“That’s quite an accomplishment.”
Ironically, Wittrock qualified for international competition by placing second, not first, at the state event.
But she finished ahead of the student who was first in the state DECA competition. He did not even make the international finals.
From a field of 160 students from all over the world competing in the professional selling category, Wittrock had to finish in the top two of her preliminary flight to be among final round of 16 students, which she did.
Then she had to make her professional selling presentation before another judge in the final round.
According to Bodenburg, the competition had students selling language learning software to a pharmaceutical company that was expanding overseas in Brazil, Canada ad Mexico.
The top 10 were called on stage at the awards session and Wittrock was awarded the third-place trophy; she was also recognized as having a top 10 written test score in the event.
Earlier that evening, Wittrock was awarded a $1,000 national DECA scholarship, Bodenburg said.
“This was Julia’s fourth national conference and final DECA competition,” he said.
“She ends her high school career as one of the most decorated Coon Rapids High School DECA members ever.”
It was her older sister Angela’s involvement in DECA in her senior year that prompted Wittrock to join the DECA program her freshman year.
“Angela had a really good experience in the DECA program,” Wittrock said.
“I wanted to see what it was like and I have really enjoyed it, too,” she said.
According to Wittrock, what she has liked about DECA is the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and other students in the state, country and the world, as well as more students at Coon Rapids High School than she otherwise would have done.
“We have a common goal of giving back to the community,” Wittrock said.
This has included DECA-sponsored fund-raisers for charities like fashion shows and car washes, she said.
In addition, DECA has also provided her with a lot of leadership opportunities, Wittrock said.
In her junior year, Wittrock was president of the Coon Rapids DECA chapter and this year, she was elected a state DECA vice president.
Her internships through the DECA program have involved working at the school store, which is operated by the DECA students.
In fact, she is in charge of the store this school year.
The store sells healthy foods and beverages, apparel and school supplies, Wittrock said.
Another reason Wittrock has enjoyed the DECA program is that she really likes to compete, she said. “I like to do my best,” Wittrock said.
Indeed, Wittrock enjoyed success in state competition as a freshman, sophomore and junior, qualifying for international competition all three years.
At state, she was third in two events in fashion merchandising as a freshman, fifth in fashion merchandising her sophomore year and took first place her junior year in role playing, Wittrock said.
But she did not enjoy success at the international level until this year.
She made some changes in her professional selling presentation in the two months between state and international competition based on the comments she had received from the judges at the state level, according to Wittrock.
“I got a lot of good ideas from the judges,” Wittrock said.
But Wittrock went into the international event with the goal of “just hoping to do my best” without any great aspirations of making the finals, she said.
“There was a lot of really tough competition,” Wittrock said.
Students from all over the country as well as from Europe, South America and Asia compete at the international DECA event.
Wittrock’s professional selling category involved role playing before a judge who acts a buyer as well as a written test.
There can be three judges or one judge depending on the competition, but in Salt Lake City, there was only one judge in each case – preliminaries and finals.
They were not only different people, but different in how they approached the judging session, Wittrock said.
The judge for the preliminaries was more passive and did not ask many questions, but the judge in the finals was much more interactive because he had experience as a buyer for a pharmaceutical company, she said.
“You have to adapt to the type of judge you have,” Wittrock said.
And there was little time to make changes in her presentation between the preliminaries and finals, she said.
The scores from the written test scores and presentation were combined to determine the finalists.
“I was so excited,” Wittrock said when she was announced as a finalist. “I ran down to the stage.”
Then she had only 20 minutes to prepare for the finals presentation as she was the first of the finalists to go before the judge.
“I felt comfortable,” Wittrock said. “I don’t think I could have done much better.”
The presentation lasted 15 minutes with five minutes set aside for questions from the judge.
But after making their presentations, Wittrock and the other finalists had to wait over two hours for the awards ceremony to find out how they had fared.
Wittrock was even more excited when her name was announced as the third-place winner, she said.
“I was so happy and had a really big smile on my face,” Wittrock said.
“I was surprised, but it was so cool and I feel really proud of what I have accomplished because it’s something I have worked hard on for a long time.”
Wittrock graduates from Coon Rapids High School June 1 and plans to attend Wheaton College, which is located just outside Chicago, Ill., this fall to major in business/economics and possibly physics as well.
Her goal is a business career as either an entrepreneur or salesperson, Wittrock said.
Besides her involvement in DECA, Wittrock has been a member of the National Honor Society both her junior and senior years and is co-president of the school’s Amnesty International chapter.
Outside of school, she is active in her church, Redeemer Lutheran, which has campuses in Coon Rapids and Fridley.
According to Bodenburg, in her four years in the DECA program, Wittrock has “done really, really well.”
As a freshman, Bodenburg said that Wittrock was a “very sharp student,” but in the years since, she has developed leadership skills and with a great deal of positive energy, she has become a leader at the school.
Attending the DECA leadership academy provided Wittrock with the skills to become a leader and she has applied those skills, challenging herself to do even better and taking on more responsibilities, he said.
“She has passion, drive and energy that she brings to every aspect of DECA and other areas and she has enjoyed great success,” Bodenburg said.
“She is a wonderful young lady.”
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]