There was a lot on the line for the DECA chapter of Copperas Cove High School. Expectations were high as the award-winning organization competed against more than 19,000 top competitors from around the world at the 2019 International Career Development Conference. The question was, could they top themselves this year or even do as well as prior years?

Of the 17 CCHS students who qualified for the world contest out of more than 100,000 that began at the local level, three made it into the second round of competition. Luke Avritt, Nazhoni Wyss and Parker Freeman presented in the Public Relations Project category talking about their annual teen suicide awareness walk.

Following the final round of competition, the trio exited the judges’ room with smiles sharing how well the final round went. They hoped for at least a top 10 placing, something the chapter achieved the last two years.

Avritt said once the group was called on stage, the students knew they were contenders to win one of the top three coveted spots.

“Once on stage, the nerves were definitely there,” Avritt said. “So once our names were called (for second place), it was relief and excitement that came over us. It was a surreal moment that showed how all the work we put into our project paid off.”

The two other members of the winning trio linked their experiences to their time helping and working in promoting and increasing the awareness of suicide in their community.

“It all seemed too good to be true to bring home a 2nd place international trophy to Copperas Cove High School DECA, but it is truly heartwarming to have this accomplishment...for people who are affected by suicide in some way. Our suicide awareness and prevention project touched the hearts of many,” Wyss said.

Of the 1,050 Texas DECA competitors in the written event categories at the international contest, five teams from Texas made the top three. Of those five, only two from Texas, one being CCHS, took second place. All CCHS competitors at the international level received high enough scores from the judges to receive a certificate of excellence, CCHS Adviser Charlotte Heinze said.

“This is the first year that we have had all our competitors receive this distinguished award,” Heinze said. “Although competing at the Texas State Development Conference is very exciting and rewarding for all the competitors, the experience that all the CCHS DECA students built by furthering their competition at the International Career Development Conference is something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

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