NHS students earn accolades at state competition

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Naugatuck High School DECA students took home some hardware at the Connecticut DECA Career Development Competition Feb. 29 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Pictured, first row, from left students Mason Cabanas, Chelsea Maza and Muad Hrezi. Back row, from left, students Gabrielle Wilson, Samantha Medrek, Danielle Matos, Isabella Verrilli, Pollyanna Paiva Silva and Georgette Nixon. -CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School DECA students returned home from a statewide competition with their share of hardware.

The 60th annual Connecticut DECA Career Development Competition was held Feb. 29 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. While most students were preparing to leave early due to a wintery mix that fell on the afternoon of the competition, Naugatuck students were staking their claim to two first place, a second place, and two top six finishes.

“I’m very proud of what they accomplished,” said Tim Reilly, marketing teacher and DECA advisor at Naugatuck High.

Chelsea Maza and Mason Cabanas won first place for public relations projects for the anti-bullying campaign, “Crossing the Line,” they organized earlier this year at the school.

In the previous two school years, NHS has sponsored an anti-bullying program called “Names Can Really Hurt,” which is put on by the Anti-Defamation League, but this year, the school didn’t have funding to do it.

Maza and Cabanas stepped forward to put on their own event for sophomores, which included information on who to go to if students are bullied or observe others being bullied, as well as how to prevent and stop bullying if they see it in the hallways and how to avoid becoming a bully themselves.

Danielle Matos, Samantha Medrek, and Isabella Verrilli finished in second place in the community service project category for their project, “Be the Final Piece,” an autism awareness and fundraiser initiative.

The three seniors hosted a series of fundraisers this year for the Autism Spectrum Resource Center in Wallingford. The fundraisers included a “manly beard competition” of male students who solicited donations to grow the most masculine facial hair, a wine tasting at Santos Restaurant, a candy sale and a raffle at a well-attended soccer game against rival Watertown.

Along with organizing the programs, competitors in many of categories had to submit lengthy papers, between 25 and 30 pages, on their project, give a 10-minute presentation to a panel of judges at the competition, and answer questions from the judges.

When it came to the sports and entertainment marketing individual event, it was all about thinking quick.That category is one of the DECA competition’s most competitive, according to Reilly. Rather than prepare a project, the students are given a situation involving sports and entertainment on the spot and must present a marketing plan to the judges.

Naugatuck’s Muad Hrezi took home first place in the event.

“You have to be quick on your feet. Muad just blew me away,” Reilly said.

Hrezi added, “I was overwhelmed with emotion when I won this prestigious event.”

Gabrielle Wilson wasn’t far behind Mrezi. She finished in the top six of the event, while Georgette Nixon and Pollyanna Paiva Silva finished in the top six in the hospitality services team event.

State DECA chapters are also challenged to raise at least $500 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the primary charity of national DECA. Naugatuck High’s chapter exceeded the challenge, raising about $1,340, the most in the state, according to Reilly. The fundraising effort was led by students Cristina Costa and Deanna Dias.

Aside from being proud, Reilly said he’s also astonished by his students for all they’re able to do between DECA, school, playing sports, and holding down part-time jobs.

“To me, I’m amazed at what these kids can accomplish,” Reilly said.

Next up for the students is the International Career Development Conference held April 28 through May 1 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The top three finishers from state competitions are invited to compete at the conference, and the top six finishers are invited to take part in the conference.

DECA students are currently raising money to help pay for the trip, which costs about $1,200 a student. DECA will host its largest fundraiser for the trip, the Rip the Runway fashion show, April 11 at the high school beginning at 7 p.m.

Donations can be mailed to Naugatuck High School, 543 Rubber Ave., Naugatuck, CT 06770, Attn. NHSDECA.

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