Sentinel High School Principal Ted Fuller calls 17-year-old Dylan Haggart “an extraordinary kid.”
“He is this high-performing, caring, service-oriented person,” Fuller said. “Dylan is redefining, frankly, what it means to be a successful human being for our young people, and defines that through service.”
Haggart, a junior, credits most of his success at Sentinel with his involvement in the school's DECA program, a student-based business and marketing association.
He said the organization gave him direction. When he entered Sentinel, Haggart didn’t want to do anything more than finish his classes and graduate.
“DECA is a key – not just to cool and interesting things, it also made me feel good about myself,” he said.
DECA’s latest project is renovating the Sentinel Spartan sign on the roof of the school, over the main entrance.
When he came to Sentinel last fall, Fuller said the sign bothered him.
“I saw the sign out front and it was peeling and chipping and it looked ratty. It didn’t set the tone,” he said.
Fuller brought up his concerns at a meeting with members of Sentinel DECA, saying he wanted them to lead a project to refurbish the weather-worn symbol.
Haggart said the students realized it was too late to complete the work before winter. Then last spring they tried to get it done, but had a hard time finding a business in town willing to help.
“During the summer, I just did it the old-fashioned way, and started calling down a list in the phone book,” Haggart said.
J. Barba Painting, run by a Sentinel alumnus, agreed to work with Sentinel DECA on the job. Haggart and the club also received a donation of supplies from Mission Paint in Missoula.
Last week, the old lettering was primed over, and painters touched up the Sentinel Spartan as well. Students in the art club are drawing stencils for the sign's new block letters, which should be painted in bold black lettering this week.
“I think it’s going to look really sharp,” Haggart said.
By the end of the school year, DECA plans to install LED lighting powered by solar panels on the roof to keep the sign lit during the night.
“Dylan is a perfect example that what you get out of this program is what you put into it,” said Mark Hartman, DECA adviser and a business teacher at Sentinel.
This summer, Haggart – who is the vice president of Sentinel DECA – was voted president of the state DECA.
“I’m the only junior on a team of seniors,” he said.
Hartman said it is uncommon for someone other than a high school senior to be Montana DECA president, and said Haggart set another benchmark as the youngest Sentinel DECA chapter officer when he was a sophomore.
“He’s taken advantage of the opportunity to get a full year ahead of his time here,” Hartman said.
As part of his role with DECA, Haggart is a senior manager at Sparta Mart, a pair of stores the organization runs at Sentinel that sells food and beverages to students.
The money the students bring in helps DECA pay for its projects. The group receives no money from the school.
“We get better because we make the school and community better,” Haggart said.
In addition to his role with DECA, Haggart represents his school as a student trustee on the Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees. Haggart said he’s looking forward to the possibility of being able to serve in that role for two years.
“From what former trustees have told me, the biggest issue is that by the time you get used to the job, it’s over,” he said.
Haggart is also a member of Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau’s student advisory board, which provides a student voice on statewide policy issues.
In his free time, Haggart said he likes to be with his friends and family, volunteer with the Montana Food Bank Network, and ski at Snowbowl in the winter.
“It’s hard, especially during the school year, to fit it all in,” he said.