MANTON — It started with raffle tickets and a love of problem-solving.

Now Samantha Helsel’s interest in marketing is getting a whole lot more serious.

The Great Lakes Virtual Academy student is competing at Michigan DECA state finals on March 5 after qualifying through a district competition. It’s her first year as an online student and her first year with the DECA organization, which teaches students about marketing, management and entrepreneurship.

“I’ve always been kind of interested in marketing, but I didn’t think I’d make it to states, which was unexpected, I guess,‘ Helsel, a sophomore, told the Cadillac News.

Now she’s cracking down, taking practice tests and preparing for the competition in Detroit, where a thousand other kids will be competing in various subjects.

When the Cadillac News visited with Helsel, she was in the middle of taking her third practice exam. She said she likes that she has options for how to learn the content.

“I can learn how I want,‘ Helsel said. “I’ve watched so many YouTube videos.‘

Helsel is excited to see other students in-person. Even just the waiting-around-with other students can be fun.

“I’m a very social person,‘ Helsel said.

Test scores and spur-of-the-moment problem-solving are the basis on which competitors are judged, and it’s the problem solving that Helsel loves.

“I like problem-solving ... I like appealing to customers,‘ Helsel said.

Qualifying for the state competition is no small accomplishment, in part because Helsel stays busy.

“You have no idea,‘ she laughs.

In her first year of homeschooling, Helsel takes six classes and she’s in three other school clubs (besides the DECA marketing club) for online students (a health professions club, a health and fitness club and a cooking club). She babysits and she works at a local restaurant. She’s thinking about joining a homeschool soccer league.

All that’s in addition to volunteering through church and selling Chamber of Commerce raffle tickets, something she’s been doing for several years.

Two other Great Lakes Virtual Academy students will be joining Helsel at the DECA state finals, which will be at the TCF Center (formerly Cobo Center) in Detroit. Students from brick-and-mortar schools will also compete.

Cadillac News