Riverview students shine at International DECA Conference in Utah

Published on: May 23, 2012

Jason Richards, Zachary Harmening and Tobin Williams, along with teacher Janet Richards. Penny Fletcher Photo

Jason Richards, Zachary Harmening and Tobin Williams, along with teacher Janet Richards. Penny Fletcher Photo


RIVERVIEW – Could the next Steve Jobs, Henry Ford or Donald Trump come from somewhere in South County?

The statistics of that happening are better than you might think.

Of the 200,000 current student members of the international organization DECA- a 60-year-old group with a mission of preparing emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management – Riverview High School DECA students shined like bright stars.

DECA teacher for 27 years Janet Richards proudly announced that of approximately 1,200 students who entered District Competition, Riverview had 12 make state level; and of the 3,000 at state level, three of her students won honors to attend DECA’s 66th Annual International Career Development Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah April 28 through May 1 where they all earned recognition from company CEO’s and other business leaders from around the world.

Jason Richards (Janet Richards’s son) was Third in the State of Florida’s 3,000 competitors and made the Top 20 at the International Level. He was also elected to be the vice president of the Florida DECA board next year.

Tobin Williams was Fifth in the state, and Zachary Harmening made the Committee of Voting Delegates at the International Level that elected the national officers — after running (Jason) Richard’s successful campaign.

DECA’s Competitive Events programs use role-playing, written and online projects and other means to evaluate academic knowledge and career skills of contestants, Janet Richards said.

The knowledge and skills needed to be learned are identified and assessed as part of National Curriculum Standards identified by industry leaders themselves.

A not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, DECA is an elective subject at high schools and colleges around the country that started at the collegiate level and (according to the DECA website) was originally known as Delta Epsilon Chi.

Janet Richards has been teaching DECA’s principles to students in South County at East Bay and then Riverview high schools since 1987 and is in the Florida Hall of Fame of District DECA Advisors. She has served nine years as the Hillsborough County DECA District Supervisor.

“In all those years this is the first time I’ve ever had a candidate run for state office, let alone have a winner,” Richards said.    

The three boys, Jason, 17 and Tobin and Zachary, 18, explained what they did to earn their honors.

Jason was given a three-step MBA-type test and also asked to research how and when he would promote specific products from the automotive industry. His final presentation in Utah was judged by NAPA Auto Parts Association officials.

Currently a junior at Riverview, Jason plans to attend both the University of Florida and then Georgia Tech and earn an MBA as well as a degree in industrial engineering.

He eventually hopes to go into management and aims for becoming a company CEO.

Tobin is a senior and already adept at sales having run the DECA store at the school which partially funded the student’s trip. (Fundraisers and donations as well as student money paid the rest.)

He was singled out as a Top Presenter in Utah with his professional selling scenario for a pharmaceutical company that wants to promote a language-learning system.

Tobin had to choose which system he wanted to use, and then show how the product would help the company and its clients. He also had to price the services.

“DECA has helped me tremendously. I want to be a real estate broker,” Tobin said. “The difference between an agent and a broker is that the broker can handle every step from the dream in the purchaser’s head to walking in the front door, including the financing.”     

Tobin said the things he’s learned about business planning and presentations will help him achieve what he wants in life.

After graduation this year, Tobin plans to attend Hillsborough Community College in Brandon and then enroll in the University of Central Florida’s Real Estate Program.

Meanwhile, Zachary, also a senior, was judged on and received honors for his work attending candidate’s speeches and being part of a 14-delegate team that picked next year’s DECA officers after discussing each candidate’s attributes. He attended Southern Regional and International competitions to fulfill this duty and also ran Jason Richards’s  winning campaign for state DECA vice president.

“We (the team) would caucus with a candidate and then get together and talk about who we would vote for and why,” Zachary explained.

At regionals he looked over all the candidates booths and talked with them- while running Jason’s campaign there prior to being chosen to go to Utah for these efforts.

He plans a career in business, aiming for hospital management.

Jason was the only junior in the group. He has yet another year at Riverview to be a part of DECA. As state vice president, he says he wonders what the next year will bring.

To find out more about DECA, visit