ALBANY -- An on-campus store set up by a group of Albany High School students and their faculty advisers has received "gold certification" from an international association of high school and college entrepreneurs.

The organization DECA awarded the VENTURE store on the Albany High campus its Gold Certification. According to a news release from the Albany Unified School District, VENTURE was the only school-based enterprise in California participating in DECA to receive Gold Certification.

"We learned about DECA maybe the first or second week of school," AHS junior Princess Parafina said. "We had discussed whether we wanted to be part of the DECA membership. We just went for it. We all wanted that recognition. We ended up getting gold certified. I think its really cool that we got that considering we're a small school in a small district."

VENTURE student store manager Sadie Murray sells Valentine’s Day items to a customer, while Kyriako Sarikakis shelves products.
VENTURE student store manager Sadie Murray sells Valentine's Day items to a customer, while Kyriako Sarikakis shelves products.

VENTURE opened in the lobby of the gymnasium at the beginning of the school year, selling school supplies such as pens and notebooks, as well as clothing and accessories. The 32 students who help operate the store are also enrolled in design and accounting classes at the school.

Albany High teachers Miriam Walden and Virginia Tremblay have been working with the students and Walden noted that the school has been lacking in business and accounting classes.

"Albany High hasn't had a business department in at least 25 years, based on the age of the textbooks and the memories of the oldest people here," she said. "There was an accounting class on the books in 1981. If you went back and looked at those classes they did in the '70s and '80s, it was basically a typing class."


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Walden and Tremblay spent about a year planning the venture. They recruited students and set up two classes, one for accounting and business and one for design. Most students take both classes. The students also work in the store and hold weekly meetings. They are learning how to manage inventory and keep books. Students also design clothing and the group votes on which designs to use.

"I just wanted to try something new and get involved in something that wasn't just a club but a class," sophomore Blanca Membrano said. "I knew Miss Tremblay from last year. She was talking up the VENTURE program in ceramics class."

Students also get to tour local businesses as part of the program. Junior Emaney Munoz got to visit with Daniel Winkler of real estate firm Daniel Winkler and Associates.

"He taught us a lot about how to manage things and what to look out for," Munoz said. "It's just interesting to get an actual look at what businesses do."

DECA was founded in 1946 to join together individual Distributive Education Clubs. The organization has also been known as Delta Epsilon Chi but is now known simply as DECA.

Its mission is to prepare "emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges." Chapters are hosted on individual high school and college campuses.

DECA promotes "co-curricular" activities, partnerships between faculty and outsiders to create projects that integrate classroom instruction with "real world" experience.

"We're the first DECA-based program in the state of California," Membrano said. "That's a pretty big deal to join the DECA group. It makes it seem more official, more professional. We're doing pretty well."

The students are deciding whether to attend the DECA International Career Development Conference to be held in Atlanta in May.

They are planning to design and sell a special T-shirt and use the profits to help pay the way for up to three students. Either way, they say VENTURE is giving students real-world experience that will pay off in the future.

"My main goal in life is to be a graphic designer," Munoz said. "The design class is teaching us how to work on the computers. They taught us how to do resumes and cover letters.

"It's a good skill to have in the future."