April 28, 2023 - Holt Miller, a 10th-grade student at Pieper High School is now an international champion after winning the DECA international competition for his SA Shoe Club business growth plan on Tuesday.
“I was overwhelmed with emotions, almost as if I was dreaming,” says Miller about his big win. “Looking over the crowd with over 20,000 people from around the world and then hearing my name called to receive first place is a life-changing experience that I will never forget. It is an experience that is almost impossible to put into words. I am grateful to know that what I worked so many hours for, finally came to fruition.”
In fact, Miller, who transferred to Comal ISD and PHS to have opportunities for business career and technical education (CTE) classes, is no stranger to the international DECA contest. The young entrepreneur advanced to this level a year ago as a 9th-grader and took what he learned then to create a new plan that would grow his business, the SA Shoe Club. This year, his diligence and hard work paid off.
“Unfortunately, I came up short of even making the top 10 last year. I took a video of the stage with the winner and told myself, ‘No matter what, I will be on that podium next year.’ To know that through my hard work and dedication, I was able to come back and win first place, truly means everything. This award and trophy show me that even when you fail, lose or fall short that through hard work and practice you can succeed. This life lesson I learned means more than the award itself ever will.”
To make it to this level, more than 100,000 DECA members began competing in local, district and association-level contests this year, and only a small percent, like Miller, got to experience the 77th International Career Development Conference in Orlando this past weekend.
Miller’s career and technology teacher Leslie Weil explains that he developed a new plan in order to compete this year. He changed his business model by working with business community members and looking at ways to build on the foundation he had created.
The complete entry included a 20-page written paper describing the business growth plan and a 15-minute oral presentation which he practiced in front of multiple classrooms, administrators, teachers and mentors. The final part of the contest is a 15-minute interview portion.
Weil was unable to join Miller in Orlando but watched the livestream of the Grand Awards Session when he was announced as the international champion.
“He FaceTimed me right after,” she said, “and the look on his face has to be one of my favorite teacher moments ever. I’m so incredibly proud!”
Besides being the CTE business and entrepreneurship teacher, Weil is also one of the advisers for the DECA student organization at PHS which has 63 members. Lana Harrison, hospitality teacher, and Carlos Bruce, business teacher, were also advisers. This spring, 36 of those members qualified for the state competition in various categories including hospitality and tourism, sports and entertainment, finance, restaurant management, merchandising and more.
Three additional PHS students were state finalists and attended the international conference with Miller. Every student who qualified for the state DECA competition were recognized during the April Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.
Students in DECA gain college and career-ready knowledge and skills by participating in DECA’s industry-related competitive events which are aligned with career clusters, curriculum standards and skills in the areas of marketing, finance, hospitality, management and entrepreneurship.
-Pieper High School sophomore Holt Miller became a DECA International Champion on Tuesday, April 25, for his business growth plan.
-Pieper High School students attended DECA’s 77th International Career Development Conference in Orlando. Pictured from left is Casen Jacobson, Morgan Elliot, Holt Miller, Zaara Mistry and Meaghan Smith. Miller competed in the business growth plan category and won.
-Pictured from left is Pieper High School teacher Lana Harrison, student Holt Miller and PHS principal Jaime Alvarez-Calderon.