DECA advisor Ray McKinney, left, and RRHS grad Ethan Goldstrom were lauded by the school board at its June 27 meeting. (Courtesy photo)



It’s funny sometimes, the way things work out.

Take Ethan Goldstrom, for example. A member of the Rio Rancho High School Class of 2022, he decided he’d partake in the district’s strategic planning.

What he garnered there ultimately helped him at the Distributive Education Course of America’s International Career Development Conference’s national competition this spring at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta – to the tune of a top-10 finish, and the first Ram to earn that honor.

“Ethan represented the student voice on our strategic planning steering committee and provided valuable insight and perspective throughout the entire process,” said Beth Pendergrass, chief communications, strategy and engagement officer for RRPS.

That didn’t surprise recently retired RRHS Assistant Principal Pat Di Vasto, who said Goldstrom “is a positive, very bright young man who is always respectful. His smile is contagious.”

Someday, Goldstrom says, he hopes to work in human resources. His next step is majoring in sociology this fall at the University of New Mexico, “to get that human side of (HR).”

He’s already learned that in hiring people, it takes more than looking at a candidate’s résumé to determine if the person is a good fit for a job vacancy.

“Being able to understand, not just the business aspect of everything, but the way that people work, because that‘s a big part of human resources – knowing how to interact with your employees, and people you may not know too well,” Goldstrum said.

One thing is certain about Goldstrom, a member of the National Honor Society who finished among the top-15 in his class, is that he’s articulate, undoubtedly another step in the right direction for continued success in life.

He credited his DECA advisor, Ray McKinney, who “had a really rough start” after heart problems felled previous DECA advisor Ray Henderson. “I feel that we had a really good team this year.

“I started off in travel and tourism,” Goldstrom said, which wasn’t a good fit in his sophomore year. As a junior, “I did a lot better. I made it to the state finals” in human resources. As a senior, he reached the international finals.

Goldstrom’s honor in Atlanta came in the in the Marketing Communications Series Role Play competition, where he finished among the top 10 among thousands of competitors. That was his goal in his third year in the DECA program: to make it to the top 10.

“My aspect was the role play aspect. You get a situation on your tabl: ‘You are the manager of this company. Here’s the issue. We need you to solve it.’

“You get 10 minutes to look at this piece of paper and solve the problem in your mind, take down notes. They take you into another room and you talk to a judge, who would be right in front of you, say the president of the company or a customer.”

Then, the student presents his or her solution.

“They take the top three of each category; I placed first (at state),” he said. RRHS had the highest percentage of state qualifiers, with what he thinks was 14 headed to the internationals and “two or three of us that placed first at state.”

Goldstrom said there were 17,000 competitors at the Atlanta event, from all over the world, with at least 200 in his event alone, which was like the state competition with two presentations in a two-hour span.

“You don’t know what you’ll get till you walk into that room,” he said. “What can I use to solve this process, this problem? … You get 10 minutes, (thinking), ‘Am I using enough time? Am I not using enough time?’”

His first issue dealt with a school district, and Goldstrom was in HR, needing to find a way to get a survey out to the district’s population of students and parents.

Timing was everything

“It was interesting because I had just come from the strategic planning process at RRPS … so I was able to use a lot of the processes they used here (in Rio Rancho) – using focus groups, using strategic-planning groups.”

The first judge gave him good feedback, only that it was presented pretty quick.

The second role-playing “test” involved being the manager of a retail department with employees going outside, “seen in public doing things that didn’t look good for the company.”

His challenge then was “how we could address this and what we could do to go ahead and continue as a good business and make our image look better.”

Because he’d already been under fire, Goldstrom said the second challenge, in his mind, went even better.

Those events measured students’ proficiency in the knowledge and skills identified by occupational practitioners as essential to success in each career.

Not all of that, of course, came from being a participant in the strategic process for Rio Rancho Public Schools. The 18-year-old also has a full-time job this summer, performing multiple roles as an administrative assistant for ABB, a technology firm in Albuquerque.

His mother, Eva, works at Colinas del Norte Elementary. His father, Erik, is an inspection supervisor for the City of Rio Rancho. He has a younger sister, Julianna, a junior-to-be at RRHS.

It’s a tight family. Goldstrom said he hopes his career will keep him in New Mexico, close to his family.

In 10 years, he predicted, he’ll have a stable job – “doing something I like to do.”

“He did an amazing job and we are so proud of his top 10 finish,” RRPS noted on its website. “This is just one example of our CTE programs at RRPS are shaping our students to become future business leaders.”

So someday, Goldstrom may be the guy making the decision whether to hire you – or your children.