“This is my first time in America. This exchange experience has made me more confident, more likely to approach people, and more open to new things,” shares Alex, who is a PSE student from Germany completing her Junior year of high school in the Deer Valley School District in Arizona.
Alex’s host mother, Dawn, thinks the world of her. “Alex is mature, outgoing, adventurous, curious, and overall, a ball of fun to have around! I think what I have enjoyed the most while hosting is gaining a completely new perspective of our home, surroundings, and especially the school that both Alex and my son attend together.”
Alex has embraced all that attending high school in America has to offer. She describes the teachers as nice and approachable. “Students here are not afraid to ask questions because the teachers are very friendly and are passionate about their job.”
She also appreciates the freedom to choose elective courses to take and the opportunity to participate in clubs and extra-curricular activities. Dawn, Alex’s host mother, shares,
“As in true Alex style, she was mature enough to know that joining clubs at a new high school would be an excellent way to make new friends who are like-minded.”
Her school days are even busier, as she has participated in the World Culture Club, Interact Club, Ted Ed, and DECA.
So, what is DECA?
As explained on the DECA website, “DECA is an organization that prepares high school students for the business world. They prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in several departments like marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. Every student that attends marketing classes in high school has the opportunity to join.” (www.deca.org, 2022)
Having a general interest in Marketing, Alex decided to take the class in school. She also enrolled in an online university class “Digital Closing”. As she settled into the marketing class at school, her teacher suggested that she apply for DECA. Alex explains, “My teacher said that I would be a great fit for DECA and there were still some positions open. I wanted a higher position to be involved more. I wanted to see what it is like being behind the scenes rather than just a participant.”
Alex applied for the Vice President position and was chosen!
She describes her experience as VP as a role in which she is learning and growing.
“My responsibilities are mainly in the finance aspect. I am in charge of communications between all members. When we purchase anything, I keep receipts and copy them for other teachers.” Alex shares that she also attends all DECA meetings where they discuss organizational matters such as their Instagram account, fundraising, etc.
She recalls one fundraising activity around Christmas time where they sold candy canes at school. “It was really nice. People could order them for a friend or family member. It was nice because they were personalized!”
Dawn shares, “DECA has been a great club for Alex as it’s really up her alley. She really sees all aspects of business and marketing. She has dedicated time and hard work into DECA. This included attending ASU Tempe campus for a day.”
At the DECA competition in Tempe, Alex was given an event situation where she assumed the role of General Manager of a fictitious retail chain that sells sporting goods and apparel. She was given 10 minutes to review information and prepare the presentation. Within the 10-minute presentation, she showcased her skills of critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and creativity and innovation. The judge played the role of District Manager and asked Alex to analyze the benefits and consequences of a scenario and make a final recommendation.
Alex marveled at the well-organized and authentic nature of the competition and shares about her experience. “I thought that it was like an actual job – as if I were actually talking to my employer. It felt so real.” At the end of the day, Alex and her partner earned third place out of over 100 participants! “She is very much looking forward to the next competition and possibly a trip to Florida for Nationals” shares Dawn.
Alex’s Local Coordinator, Clarissa, describes her in one word…AMAZING! “I am constantly blown away by everything she does. She is so talented in so many ways and is constantly trying and learning new things. I am so impressed with her ability to balance so many interests and do so well at all of them.”
Outside of school, Alex enjoys spending quality time with her host family. “We have dinner together and we talk about everything. We go to the movies and go on hikes together. It is so fun!” She smiles. Her new favorite foods are spaghetti squash and cheesecake. She enjoys eating at restaurants, including the Cheesecake Factory, and is already looking forward to returning.
Dawn says that Alex has impacted their family on so many levels.
“For me personally, having the ability to help shape a young person’s mind and perspective is the biggest one of all.”
She reflects on sharing their favorite Christmas traditions with Alex such as decorating, baking, cooking, and reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.’ “I think she has a memory of Christmas season that will last her a lifetime, and I am so honored to bring her that experience,” says Dawn.
Alex will also continue to be a bright light in her host family’s future. Dawn shares, “We have bonded with Alex so much that I’ve told her on her 21st birthday, we are meeting in NYC for some Broadway musicals, ballet, and amazing sushi. I look forward to the future relationship we will continue to have.”
As for the future, Alex says that she desires to be independent. “I am very naturally driven to be a leader, and I don’t want to work for a boss. I want to make an impact on the world.”
She further describes her dream of opening a school for special needs children. “It is so unfair how these kids get lost in the system. Every child learns differently and has needs specific to them. I want to create a school that ensures every child’s learning needs are met.” Back in Germany, Alex taught a business class to children ages 13-18. “I noticed how children learn differently, and I tried different methods to teach them. I created a way to section the entire 1.5 hours so that everyone’s learning needs were met.”
We wish Alex a very bright future and look forward to seeing her accomplish great things as a natural born leader!