DECA chapter scores big at conference

Naugatuck High School juniors Kelly Murphy, left, and Peter Morrissey, right, won third place in a recent international DECA competition. They are pictured with NHS DECA Chapter President Alexus Coney. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School juniors Kelly Murphy, left, and Peter Morrissey, right, won third place in a recent international DECA competition. They are pictured with NHS DECA Chapter President Alexus Coney. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School’s DECA chapter has proven that it belongs among the top in the world.

Naugatuck High School juniors Kelly Murphy and Peter Morrissey took home a third place finish at the DECA International Career Development Conference last month in in Nashville, Tenn. It marked the first time a DECA team from NHS finish in the top 20 at the international competition. Each category has between 160 and 180 competitors, according to DECA adviser and NHS marketing teacher Tim Reilly.

“It was just really exhilarating. It is just an awesome feeling,” Morrissey said.

The third-place came just two months after the 10 out of the chapter’s 14 entries placed in the top three at the state competition.

Murphy and Morrissey won third in the advertising category. The pair worked on an advertising campaign for Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe.

What Murphy and Morrissey didn’t know when they started the project was that it was meant to be theoretical rather than something they had to put into practice.

“When we first got it we thought it was supposed to be a real thing, so we went down to Nardelli’s and told them our whole plan. When we got back Mr. Reilly said ‘you know this is just hypothetical, you just have to make it up. You don’t actually have to do it.’ But we had already talked to them, so we decided to go through with it,” Murphy said.

They began their advertising campaign by having Nardelli’s hand out free samples at the NHS cafeteria, so students could try the grinders. They also hosted a selfie contest where students would post selfies to various social media platforms and tag Nardelli’s. The top three winners received gift cards to the grinder shop.

“Nobody actually does the advertising campaign. So, that was a big factor in their winning. They actually did it,” Naugatuck DECA President Alexus Coney, a senior, said.

The day they received the award, Morrissey and Murphy found out they were among the top 20 in their category. That evening the top 10 projects in each category were announced in front of all of the competitors.

“They called the top 10 in our event. They called nine teams down and they still hadn’t said our names,” Morrissey said.

“There was a pause and we thought it was over,” Murphy added.

Murphy and Morrissey were finally called to the stage.

All the competitors on stage were given medals, then the top three were announced.

“When they said ‘in third place from Connecticut,’ we knew we were the only team from Connecticut left,” Morrissey said. “I jumped so high my medal popped off.”

Murphy said she didn’t hear her name being called she was so shocked and excited.

“The nicest thing is we had our kids crying for them and rooting for them at the night ceremony,” Reilly said. “It was 17 students and all they cared about was that PJ and Kelly won.”

Coney said seeing Morrissey and Murphy take third place meant a lot to her and Reilly.

“We have never had someone on the stage in the top 20, much less third in the whole world. It was not only shocking but satisfying for him and for me because I am leaving and he is retiring next year. We were really proud. The whole chapter is very proud. It made a name for Naugatuck, not only in the state, but nationally,” Coney said.

Although he and Murphy were the ones on the stage, Morrissey said they didn’t get there by themselves.

“It was a huge help having Alexus and Mr. Reilly throughout the course of this process. Every team that competed has said the same thing. We could not have done it without the two of them,” Morrissey said.