A high school marketing club from Coral Springs, FL recently showed the world that they will never forget the fallen firefighters of September 11th. The DECA Chapter at JP Taravella High School placed 5th among 180 schools in the International Competition for business and marketing programs for their work hosting a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
DECA is an international club for high school and college students that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. This year, JP Taravella High School had 325 DECA members.
But that’s not all. The team has been selected as one of 10 finalists in the nationwide FORD Drive it 4Ward Contest for the chance to win $5,000. Voting for the best school project through Ford’s Drive 4UR School contest will take place on Facebook, June 15 – 18. To cast your vote go to: www.facebook.com/Drive4URschool.
DECA members learned about the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb from their advisor, Jamie Simmons, whose nephew is a firefighter and coordinated the Montgomery, AL climb. Simmons and the students were inspired by the efforts to honor the 343 firefighters from FDNY who made the ultimate sacrifice. They also believed coordinating a 9/11 Memorial Climb would make a great team project to enter in the international competition.
The team contacted the NFFF to get information about hosting a climb then researched the events of September 11th and each firefighter who died that day. The building they wanted to use for the event was unavailable so the principal of JP Taravella suggested using the school.
“This made it much easier because we had total control of the event,” explained Simmons. “The school is only three-stories, but the stairwells are wide, so the participants could walk up one stairwell, cross the length of the hallway to the other stairwell, down those stairs and across the ground floor 27 times.”
On the morning of the climb, a survivor who had been on the 68th Floor of one of the Twin Towers spoke to the gathering. Students gave PowerPoint presentations, recognized local firefighters, and played 9/11 videos.
The climb turned out to be a great success. Participants included 25 firefighters who climbed in full gear as well as 65 students and 35 citizens. They raised $6,400 from the entrance fees and $1,800 in donations from local businesses. To increase awareness of the climb, 400 business students developed a PowerPoint presentation and committees designed T-shirts, Challenge Coins, and lanyards with photos of the 343 firefighters for all the registrants.
For the competition, the team created a 30-page manual that described all activities involved in managing a stair climb and then gave a 15 minute presentation to a panel of judges. Their hard work paid off. After qualifying at state competition, the DECA Chairs, Aaron Mitchell, Ambalika Kangal, and Rachael Christopher, traveled to Orlando for International competition and placed 5th overall.
After the International Competition, the DECA team received the invitation from Ford Motor Company to apply to a new contest, Drive It 4Ward, that recognizes school groups that make a difference in their community. The students wrote a 100-word description about the project and were selected as one of the top 10 groups nationwide.
“The most exciting part about it was finding out there hadn’t been a high school sponsor a stair climb before. The kids put together a 7-minute video explaining their project and created a one-page list of action items to share with the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb Coordinators. Our goal is to get more high school students involved in local climbs across the country,” Simmons said.
“Our principal wants to continue the project, and another teacher who advises a leadership group at the school will advise them,” Simmons said. “The DECA team will assist as needed to keep it going and make it bigger and better each year, and include more firefighters.” The next climb is scheduled for September 26.