Editor’s note: A version of this story first published in the August issue of Wenatchee Valley Business World.

LEAVENWORTH — Personal growth pushes D’Andre Vasquez to be better every day.

“Everyone has something that they’re going through and we have the option to let that fuel our fire or extinguish it,” he said. “I’m highly driven by success. But success for me isn’t necessarily a title, it’s personal growth and the idea of continually becoming better.”

Vasquez is 18, but he speaks and acts like someone twice his age. He’s also been through more personal tragedy and achieved more than most.

Three years ago he lost both of his parents and his grandmother in a car accident. The wreck also broke both of his legs.

“It was a lot of physical trauma to overcome and mental trauma,” he said. “But I think I’ve been bestowed with that mentality of ‘You can let an event fuel your fire or extinguish it.’”

But that mentality didn’t kick in right away, Vasquez said.

“I had very little motivation to go to school and very little motivation to do much of anything,” he said.

Then he found DECA, a career and technical club. The organization had just opened a chapter at Cascade High School and he decided to join.

“During my time in DECA, it’s allowed me to cope with the loss of my parents but also show me that the hard work you put in definitely can have a great outcome,” he said. “That for me was seen in competitions before I got involved in the leadership part of it.”

He was also on the wrestling team, which helped him recover from his injuries, he said.

“It’s definitely been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, recovering from those two broken legs,” he said. “But that has motivated me to become very physically active and then I was able to participate in the state wrestling tournament this year.”

But his biggest motivation has always been DECA. He quickly moved up in the organization’s ranks, first as an area president for Central Washington, and then in April he was elected as the international executive president — the worldwide organization’s top student post.

“I’ll be serving as the brand’s main student ambassador, so I’ll often be hosting workshops across the states and maybe a little bit of abroad travel depending on how the schedule works out this year,” he said.

Vasquez is taking a gap year to dedicate himself fully to the position, then he’ll be attending college to study marketing and political science, he said.

“My parents were instrumental in my development,” he said. “Being a family of immigrants, they came here very, very early in their lives. They left their homes and everything they knew at 16 and 18 years of age. For me, a lot of it is about honoring that sacrifice they made to give us a better opportunity for success.”

Reilly Kneedler: 661-5213

kneedler@wenatcheeworld.com or

on Twitter @reillykneedler