Denney: Consider joining a CTSO


Lee Deney

Taylor Frech didn’t feel like her local high school was challenging enough, so she decided to try something new. She said she didn’t even know what DECA was when she signed up, but soon discovered it was exactly what she needed.

DECA is a CareerTech Student Organization (CTSO) dedicated to preparing high school and college students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. Frech said DECA provided him with the challenge he was missing.

“I started to fall in love with coming to school every day,” she said, “and found ways to challenge myself through the marketing program and DECA.”

Through DECA, Frech learned the day-to-day operations of multiple businesses, became a better communicator, learned to work in teams, and formed lasting friendships with her DECA classmates.

Frech earned a bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hotel and institutional management. She is now director of revenue for Hilton’s corporate office and vice president of Hilton Helping Hands, Hilton’s service organization.

Frech said she uses the skills she learned from CareerTech every day in her professional and personal life.

“CareerTech gave me years of experience that others my age didn’t have,” she said. “It prepared me to meet every challenge and every opportunity head-on.”

DECA is one of seven CTSOs in Oklahoma that provide shared benefits for students, including leadership, public speaking, problem solving, and organizational skills. Additionally, students have the opportunity to hold leadership positions at the local, state, and national levels and attend conferences to network with fellow students and industry leaders.

Joining a CTSO allows students to explore and pursue their interests, just as it did for Frech.

In fiscal year 2022, more than 92,000 Oklahoma students learned important leadership skills as members of the state’s seven extracurricular student organizations: Business Professionals of America; THIS SIDE ; Family, Professional, and Community Leaders of America; FFA; HOSA; USA Skills; and Association of Technology Students.

Extracurricular organizations are designed to develop skills through programs, activities, and competitions. They improve job skills, strengthen leadership skills, enrich classroom learning, promote career awareness, provide experiential learning, foster a sense of community, and improve decision-making.

Students who participate in CTSOs demonstrate higher levels of academic engagement and motivation, civic engagement, professional self-efficacy, and employability skills than other students. According to the National Center for Research on Career and Technical Education, participating in leadership and professional development activities at a CTSO increases students’ academic aspirations.

Vocational and technical education provides learners of all ages with job skills that support Oklahoma’s economic growth. It is important to recognize the power of a skills-based education, which gives students the tools they need to succeed in work, in education and in life.

Oklahoma is consistently recognized for having one of the best CareerTech systems in the nation, serving more than 444,000 students in fiscal year 2022 through a network of 391 school districts, 29 technology centers, 15 skills centers and 32 adult education and family literacy providers.

CareerTech student organizations are not only important, they are essential to meeting Oklahoma’s labor demands of today and tomorrow.

For more information on these student organizations and their missions, visit

Lee Denney is the acting state director of Oklahoma’s Department of Career and Technology Education. Denney served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2016. During her final two years in office, she served as speaker pro tempore.


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