Marketing prowess reaps record return

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NHS to be well represented at national DECA competition

Naugatuck High School student and DECA President Kassie Defala, left, and Naugatuck High student and DECA Public Relations Director Courtney Leblanc discuss the program at the school Tuesday afternoon. The NHS program placed in the top three in ten categories at the Connecticut DECA State Career Development Conference Feb. 25. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School student and DECA President Kassie Defala, left, and Naugatuck High student and DECA Public Relations Director Courtney Leblanc discuss the program at the school Tuesday afternoon. The NHS program placed in the top three in ten categories at the Connecticut DECA State Career Development Conference Feb. 25. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School’s DECA program out did itself at the State Career Development Conference.

The program had 10 teams, made up of 17 students total, place in the top three of their category during the conference Feb. 25 at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. That’s the most students the program has placed in the top three at the state conference since NHS teacher and DECA advisor Tim Reilly has been involved with DECA.

“Every year kids have an interest at some level of competing. This year it was just off the charts. There was just this energy that happened,” Reilly said.

The students worked on marketing projects in one of 40 categories, then presented their project at the conference against competition from across the state. Students who place in the top three of any category go on to compete at the national conference in April, which is in Orlando, Fla. this year.

“It’s rewarding for all the club,” said Naugatuck High DECA President Kassie Defala about the program’s performance at the state competition. “We watch people and how hard they work and they don’t win every year. But this year everybody worked so hard and it has paid off. It’s rewarding to see we pushed so many people to compete,” Defala said.

Reilly said the students put in extra effort this year.

“This time we went about it a little differently. We had workshops on Saturdays where the kids would come in and we’d stay late nights. And the kids wanted to take advantage of it,” Reilly said.

Reilly credits the amount of work the students put in as why so many brought home awards.

“I said, ‘I like our odds but it’ll depend on how much hard work gets put in.’ They did and the results were astounding. It just blew me away. It’s absolutely humbling for me as a teacher,” Reilly said.

Reilly was not the only one who was shocked.

Courtney Morin and Tathiana Serrano were both surprised when they placed first in the public relations category.

“I didn’t hear our names for third or second and thought, ‘We didn’t win.’ Then we heard our names for first place and it was so exciting,” Serrano said.

Sarika Cho, Imani Webb and Alexandra Silva were not expecting to place in the international business plan category when they entered the competition.

“It was really satisfying to know that our hard work paid off because we spent so many hours after school. It was really satisfying to hear our name and we were able to go on stage and represent our town,” Webb said.

For Hannah Lauer and Andrea Mercer the conference was more about learning than placing.

“It was great. I honestly didn’t think we were going to place. This is just something to do for a learning experience. I was really surprised and happy we won,” Lauer said.

Naugatuck High School students and DECA members Heyi Cheng, left, and Alexus Coney hold the first place trophies they won during the Connecticut DECA’s State Career Development Conference on Feb. 25. In addition to winning, Cheng and Coney were elected Connecticut DECA vice president of community outreach and executive vice president, respectively. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School students and DECA members Heyi Cheng, left, and Alexus Coney hold the first place trophies they won during the Connecticut DECA’s State Career Development Conference on Feb. 25. In addition to winning, Cheng and Coney were elected Connecticut DECA vice president of community outreach and executive vice president, respectively. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High DECA also had another first at the conference. Heyi Cheng and Alexus Coney were both named as state officers for Connecticut DECA for the 2015-16 school year. It’s the first time two students from Naugatuck were elected to serve as officers at the same time.

Coney was elected executive vice president and Cheng was elected vice president of community outreach.

Now that the state conference is over the DECA students have their eyes set on the national competition. The competition is a five-day event that culminates in an award ceremony on the final day. The top 10 students or groups are recognized in each category.

“They call from those 10 the top three. So maybe, even if they don’t get the top three, they are there for the hype. That’s my goal before I retire, to get one kid or group on the stage at night in the top 10 and let happen what happens,” Reilly said.

Webb and Silva know the level of competition at nationals is a step above states.

“There are so many intelligent people in DECA. We’re intelligent too, but there is always someone who can take it a step higher,” Webb said.

Reilly said the national competition is not about winning, it’s about the students doing their best. However, he thinks he might see some of his students on stage that final night.

“It’s really hard to win at nationals, but now after what I just saw, I think we have a shot to do it this year. I’m not saying we will, but I think we have a shot. I like our chances, but it will all be how hard the kids work,” Reilly said.

Ten teams on to national competition

NAUGATUCK — Ten teams from the Naugatuck High School DECA program placed in the top three of the State Career Development Conference Feb. 25 and will compete at the national competition in April.

The following students placed at the conference:

Alexus Coney won first place in Hospitality Research Project.

Heyi Cheng, Mike Huzior and Kevin Okifo won first place in Creative Marketing Project.

Courtney Morin and Tathiana Serrano won first place in Public Relations Project.

Suzana Amaral and Sara Marques won first place in Financial Literacy Promotion Plan.

Emily Griffin won first place in the Sports and Entertainment Promotion Plan.

Sarika Cho, Alexandra Silva and Imani Webb won second place in International Business Plan.

Rachel Daisey and Courtney Leblanc won second place in Entrepreneurship Innovation Project.

Hannah Lauer and Andrea Mercer won second place in Buying and Merchandising Project.

Gina Wierzbicki won third place in Hotel and Lodging Series.

Mikayla Healy and Chris Yacavone won third place in Community Service Project.