DECA is truly a “grass roots” organization. During the period between 1937 and 1942, when cooperative programs in distributive education were becoming established, the class members in many schools organized clubs.
One of the basic reasons for the formation of such organizations lies in the fact that students were employed at training stations in the afternoons and missed many regular school activities. The common interest of these students and their need to “belong” were basic reasons for the early widespread formation of school organizations in many sections of the country.
Various names for these school organizations were adopted: “Future Retailers,” “Future Distributors,” “Future Merchants,” and “Distributive Education Clubs.” Between 1941 and 1944, a few states held statewide meetings of Distributive Education Clubs, and by 1945 several states had organized state units and were holding state conferences. About the same time, the idea of a national organization began to take definite form and plans were developed for a national conference.
In 1946, the United States Office of Education invited a representative committee of state supervisors of distributive education to meet in Washington, D.C. with representatives of the U.S. Office of Education to develop further plans for the national organization and to prepare a proposed constitution and organization chart.
The national organization was initiated in Memphis, Tennessee, in April, 1947, at the first Interstate Conference of Distributive Education Clubs. At that meeting, delegates from 12 states unanimously adopted a resolution to form a national organization. The organization was officially endorsed by the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Education meeting at the same time in Chicago. Officers were elected and committees were appointed to prepare proposed Articles of Incorporation, a chartering procedure for the joining of state units, and a student governing constitution for consideration at the next year’s convention.
The second national convention, held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1948, saw the adoption of the student constitution, approval of Articles of Incorporation, the official name, the “Distributive Education Organizations of America,” designated DECA, and the acceptance of 17 chartered member states. The chartered member states were: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
In 1953, a national headquarters for DECA was established at 1010 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., with the help of the American Vocational Association.
The first issue of the DECA DISTRIBUTOR, the national publication of DECA, was presented during the second annual convention in St. Louis, with financial assistance of the first donor to DECA – The Sears-Roebuck Foundation. The same donor made possible the employment of DECA’s first full-time staff person, and the first executive secretary of DECA was employed in July, 1953.
Initially, funds and moral support came primarily from The Sears-Roebuck Foundation. Other business organizations learned of DECA and they became interested. Several gave financial aid. In 1957, donors to DECA made it possible for DECA to add a Member Service Division to its national headquarters plus the employment of a member service director. In addition, a National Leadership Training Conference for the DECA National Officers was begun during 1958.
DECA continued to grow and progress. By 1960, the National DECA staff expanded to include not only an executive director (formerly the executive secretary) and member service director, but also a public relations director and publications director. The week-long training conference for national officers was expanded to three weeks.
State presidents were allowed to attend a week-long national training seminar put on by the national officers and DECA staff. A National DECA Week was established and expanded to DECA Month and National Headquarters was moved to Falls Church, Virginia.
Membership in DECA has continually increased. From 793 members representing 12 State Associations in 1947, DECA has grown to more than 165,000 members representing 54 State Associations, including all fifty states and Puerto Rico, District of Columbia, Guam and Germany. In 1980, DECA became international with the issuance of an association charter to Canada.
In 1975, a National DECA Center Funding Campaign successfully established a permanent home for DECA. The National DECA Headquarters was built at 1908 Association Drive, Reston, Virginia. The National DECA Headquarters houses the employed staff of DECA, Inc. The executive director, employed by the Board of Directors, is responsible for the administration of National Headquarters and for executing the policies established by the Board of Directors. Other staff members are employed by the executive director for the development, promotion and coordination of the many DECA activities between National Headquarters and the State Associations.
Opportunities to develop leadership, social, and civic awareness, and increased understanding in the world of work in management and marketing are provided through DECA, the student organization for marketing education students. As an integral part of the instructional program, students engage in activities that extend their interest, skills, and knowledge in selected aspects of marketing. Such organized activities, under appropriate supervision, are referred to as co-curricular activities. Any student enrolled in a career and technical marketing education instructional program is eligible for membership on all levels of the DECA organization.
Colorado became a chartered member of DECA in 1949 and was the first state admitted after the original formation of DECA in 1947. Mr. John Walldeck was the first state supervisor. Colorado DECA on the local, district, and state level is sponsored by the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education.
Distributive Education as a class was first offered in 1938 at the adult level and the first program at the high school level was offered in 1942 in Alamosa.
The first DECA chapters found in Colorado were at Greeley High School, Fort Collins High School, Manual High School, and Colorado State College of Education, which is now the University of Northern Colorado.
The first State Leadership Conference was held in 1949 at the Denver YMCA. The Conference lasted one-half hour and cost $1.25 per participant.
The Marketing Education (ME) program has grown from one school and a few students to 88 plus schools. Colorado DECA has grown right along with Marketing Education and has over 7,500 plus student members.