Each year, Waunakee High School marketing instructor Sandra Meinholz receives a Wisconsin DECA Officer Application to forward on to her DECA team officers in case they’d like to run for state office.
In December, Meinholz had just the right person in mind – high school junior Olivia Lemanski.
She was confident Lemanski could succeed as a statewide officer, saying within the high school chapter, Lemanski has helped her with the leadership.
“She’s so positive, Wisconsin DECA will be lucky to have her,” Meinholz.
Meinholz heard back from Lemanski about a week before the application was due.
“She asked me if I would fill out of the recommendation. I was excited. Of course, I knew she would get it. I told her, if you don’t get the state president position, I don’t know what they want. I said, ‘You’re amazing at what you do.’”
Lemanski called the election process very long. She sent Wisconsin DECA a website with her portfolio and then went on to screening in February at DeForest High School with Meinholz.
She and other applicants were put into an “escape room,” and their interactions were observed. They then did team-building exercises, followed by an interview with eight other panelists who asked questions and learned more about the applicants.
The next day, she was one of two selected as presidential candidates.
During the state DECA conference March 10-12, Lemanski gave two different speeches, one for the DECA board comprising “a bunch of adults,” such as alumni and past DECA leaders, she said.
The second speech was to the voting delegates – students from every single DECA chapter throughout Wisconsin except for Waunakee’s, because it had a state DECA candidate.
Meinholz said Lemanski felt good about the speech, and Thursday, at the end of the awards ceremony, she was announced president of Team 55, the Wisconsin DECA.
“She won. I would have been surprised if she didn’t. There would have had to be somebody better than her, and there isn’t,” Meinholz said. Lemanski would be the very first state officer in Meinholz’s DECA club in her 20 years of teaching.
Lemanski felt differently than her advisor.
“I was honestly super surprised,” Lemanski said. “When I walked into that screening room the first time, I knew who was up for candidates. They were all super people.”
Lemanski said she wasn’t sure what the state DECA leaders were looking for.
“I went in there hoping they liked my ideas,” she said.
Lemanski will be the state president for all 11,000 Wisconsin DECA members. She will manage Team 55 and connect with leadership and the five vice presidents of the team.
“I help to elevate the programs. They all come in with initiatives to work on, and I work on my own initiatives. I’m the one who bridges the gap between the vice presidents to the Wisconsin state advisors,” Lemanski said.
Much of the work involves scheduling, managing and planning conferences.
Lemanski’s presidency was announced March 12 and the next day, Gov. Evers ordered schools closed, cancelling the international DECA conference in Tennessee.
But Lemanski and the vice presidents are planning the Central Regions Leadership Conference in November. This year, it happens to be in Wisconsin with all the Midwest chapters attending.
Lemanski will be a senior next year, and though she hasn’t decided which college she wants to attend, she would like to major in business or business finance, she said.