Wake County Schools

Apex Friendship students adapt to virtual environment as they compete for business future

Posted November 24, 2020 6:01 a.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2020 6:55 a.m. EST

— Some high school students now have valuable business experience thanks to COVID-19. A recent food drive brought Apex Friendship's DECA group members together — socially distanced, of course — after months of meeting only on a home computer or laptop.

The DECA club prepares students for business careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

For a few hours, a group of DECA club students set up a table and boxes in which people could drop off non-perishable food items.

Jenesis Nwainokpor

"Even though we can’t meet in person, you get to see everyone come out for stuff like this, even if it’s socially distant," said Jenesis Nwainokpor.

Nwainokpor is a senior at Apex Friendship and the school’s DECA vice president of club development. The DECA Club’s mission is to help students learn about business careers through instruction as well as through big competitions.

"We all get together and we compete in things like finance, marketing, hospitality and tourism," explained Nwainokpor.

In addition to the rest of her studies, Nwainokpor has helped DECA club members, laptop-to-laptop, "role-play" through different business scenarios -- a failing Asian fusion restaurant, for example. She may challenge them to define the target market and explain a strategy for turning the business around.

Last year, DECA students practiced in the same way and qualified for a state competition. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic caused that competition as well as an international competition in Nashville, Tenn., to be canceled.

DECA teacher Tom Gilbert said a virtual competition was offered in its place, "but it was to no level of what the kids were used to and what their hopes and hard work had gone into," said Gilbert.

This school year, Nwainokpor knew that getting back to that same level of competition-readiness might be tougher than being able to practice face-to-face as a group. "I really thought that we’d have problems getting first years to come to the meetings or come to practice, but they’ve really surprised me," she said.

Principal Matt Wight says the whole school has faced and overcome similar challenges. "It has been really interesting and gratifying to see how our students and teachers have been able to improvise," said Wight.

Wight says they have already brought back several athletic teams to campus like cross country track and volleyball.

"We’re really looking forward to that January date to get all of the kids back, maybe not all at the same time, but to get them back in class," said Wight.

Knowing the ups and downs of the pandemic is unpredictable, Wight said his philosophy is, "Plan for the worst but hope for the best."

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