By TAYLOR HARTZ
Southington High School students swept the board at this year’s state DECA conference, held at the Aqua Turf on March 1. Over 1,000 student leaders and entrepreneurs gathered in Southington to compete in categories ranging from finance and hospitality to marketing and management.
The DECA program, said SHS co-advisor Teresa Brooks, teaches students “to be academically prepared, community oriented, professionally responsible, and experienced.”
The school’s overall chapter earned three allocations for the International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Nashville, Tenn., next month, including “Thrive Chapter Status”, based on collaboration with other DECA programs.
SHS received these recognitions after competing in the Global Entrepreneur-ship Week and Community Service Event.
Eight students took home first place awards—Jordan Meir for an Entrepreneurship Start Up Business Project; Andrew Gorham for Retail Merchandising; Evan Auidi, Margaux Degumbia, and Natalie Rickard for their Learn and Earn Project; and Kristina Linehan, Brandon Porter, and Brenna Sarantides for their Entrepreneurship Promotion Project.
Ninth-grader Callie Natelli took third place in the Principles of Marketing category, and Samantha Steeves, a junior, was a top six medalist in Human Resources Management.
“I learned a lot about handling pressure and how to think on your feet,” said Gorham, a junior. Gorham said he would recommend the conference to any student who plans to work in the corporate world. “It grants vital life skills seldom taught at school,” he said.
Each year, more than 215,000 student members of DECA across the nation take part in the programs competitive events program, where students compete in state-wide and regional competitions. From April 23 to 26, six SHS students will travel to Nashville for the ICDC.
Sophomores Chelsea Cocozza and Katrina Rothstein will attend leadership workshops in DECA’s Elevate Academy, while junior Alex Ciaffaglione will learn to engage student membership at the Thrive Academy.
North Coast Clothing, an SHS based clothing start up, will compete in the Learn and Earn project after taking first in the category statewide.
“We got some very good insight into our presentation abilities as well as what tactics work better than others,” said Evan Aiudi, who launched North Coast Clothing with marketing classmates Marguax Degumbia and Natalie Rickard, earlier this year.
The North Coast team earned perfect scores on their visual and oral presentations earlier this month. Though Aiudi said the conference was “nerve racking”, the senior said “It certainly was fun to know you’re being ranked against others for your work,” and said he has his teammates learned strategies for stress management during the competitions.
Brooks, a marketing teacher at SHS, said DECA students are also encouraged to participate in leadership activities and community service throughout the school year.
The co-advisor, who will mentor the students in Nashville next month, said these conferences allow students to take skills they’ve learned in the classroom, like public speaking, analytical skills, and critical thinking, and “connect it to the real world.”
DECA students have begun to brainstorm new fundraising techniques to offer the ICDC conference – which holds a $1,300 price tag per student—to even more students next year.
This year’s competitors will be holding a fundraiser for their travel expenses this Sunday, March 20, from 7:30a.m. to 2:30p.m. at Fancy Bagel on Queen Street.