"DECA Seven" Headed to Nationals

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By Nieves J. Alvarez, communications intern

Seven Nottingham high school students will compete at the DECA International Career Development Conference on May 2-7 in Atlanta, Georgia. DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. DECA students have the opportunity to participate in a regional, state and national competition.

Thomas Azzolino, business teacher at Nottingham High School, has been a DECA advisor for three years. “Each year there’s a different campaign,” Mr. Azzolino said. He expressed his amazement at the growth of all the students in the past three years. “To see what they produced as freshman, to what they’ve produced as seniors, it’s incredible to see the confidence they now exude.”

DECA releases guidelines and criteria for competition every year. In previous years, students were able to do a franchise project and were able to work in conjunction with Tim Horton’s. Due to this partnership they were able to open and run a Tim Horton’s in Nottingham. “It gives the kids real practical experience,” Mr. Azzolino said.

This year three student projects were selected to advance to the national competition. Jenyia Wilson, Natalie Mooney and Emily Carlson worked on a marketing project for the Cooperative Federal Student Credit Branch at Nottingham High School. The creative marketing project aimed to encourage students to become involved with the branch while increasing financial literacy. Juliana Matthews and Nastacia Marks executed an eating disorder awareness public relations campaign entitled “Redefining Beauty.” Lastly, Claire Breed and Deasia Hawkins aimed to widen knowledge about the dangers of bullying through the “Bully Proof” PR campaign.

Group 1

Jenyia Wilson, Natalie Mooney and Emily Carlson (Seniors)

Jenyia and Natalie became involved with DECA in their freshman year while Emily became involved in her sophomore year. “I like the fact that we get to build our presentation skills,” said Natalie Mooney.  Their marketing project has a very strong emphasis on writing and overall has been a life changing experience for them. They did a creative marketing project with the Cooperative Federal Student Credit Union, and placed 2nd at the State competition.  “We came up with new ways to get the students more involved and more interested,” Emily said.

For the project they partnered with the Cooperative Federal Branch manager of the Westcott area. They found that by bringing the credit union into the school it would be more convenient for students. At the regional competition they displayed the marketing efforts on a tri- fold board. Additionally, the girls outlined every detail of their project in a 30-page business plan.

The girls praise Mr. Azzolino for his support and guidance with their projects. “Nothing would be possible for our project without him,” Emily said. This group has attended the national conference for three years, and was a finalist last year. They hope that they place for their DECA project this year.

Group 2

Julianna Matthews and Nastacia Marks (Seniors)

Nastacia and Juliana have been a part of DECA for three years and have attended nationals every year. This year they conducted a public relations campaign titled, “Redefining Beauty.” The campaign placed first in the DECA state competition.

“We really focused on raising awareness on eating disorders among teenagers,” Nastacia said. The disorders addressed in the campaign were anorexia and bulimia among others.  “There isn’t one kind of beautiful,” said Juliana.  Due to images in the media, the girls were compelled to do this campaign to address beauty and eating disorders. A subject that hit’s close to home; they personally know individuals who have been affected by this.

The campaign used surveys as part of their research. The results varied, highlighting the many issues students had with beauty and body image. Originally the target audience was just  teenage girls but in while conductign the surveys they quickly realized that it was as big of an issue among young men.  “It’s a big issue among men too,” Nastacia said.

On YouTube there is a promotional video titled “Redefining Beauty 2014,” to promote the campaign. Their highlight event will be a concert in conjunction with Ophelia’s Place, a center that assists girls suffering from eating disorders.

Their initial event was a run on the Nottingham upper track, and representatives from Dynamic Fitness were present to discuss healthy weight loss tips. “We promoted the run through the use of posters around the neighborhood,” Nastacia said.

The DECA program for these girls has been an amazing experience. They attribute their career interests in business to their participation in the program. Juliana will be attending the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University in the fall and says “DECA has prepared me for what I want to do in the future.”

Group 3

Deasia Hawkins and Claire Breed (Seniors)

DECA intrigued these two girls because of its business aspect. “I joined the class my sophomore year, and enjoyed it,” Claire said. Deasia started in DECA in her freshman year and has been inspired to start her own business.

These young women are responsible for “The Bully Proof Campaign.” The campaign’s strategy consisted of four prongs: raising awareness in surrounding neighborhoods, educate the youth on bullying ramifications, informing others of bullying misconceptions and its effects, and community partnerships. “A lot of people think it only affects just younger children, it can be in high school and the work place,” Deasia said.

A community partnership with the Open Hand theatre was established for the campaign. The girls wanted to target young children, so they are aware of bullying behaviors and can carry that knowledge into their teen and adult years. “The Chocolate War,” was presented at Ed Smith to students in grades 2-5. “They [Open Hand Theatre] were really good at connecting with the kids,” Claire said.

The target audience age is 6-19 and 20 and over. The high- school age student focus saw them partnering with the Nottingham Film Society. Through this partnership critically acclaimed films, “Bully” and “Cyber Bully” were shown at the high school to students. They chose these particular films because the characters and people in the films were of high-school age.

Information sessions were also held in classes to clear up misconceptions about bullying. Handouts were given and a conversation was encouraged about bullying school-wide. “It’s just a big kid shoving a little kid into a locker,” Deasia said, when addressing some of the misconceptions people had about bullying. “Bullying is more common among friends.”

The young women were knowledgeable that bullying goes beyond physical harm. “Even if it’s a sexist remark or a homophobic remark, its still an issue,” Deasia said. Although some of the high school students were reluctant, eventually the support became unwavering. Students attended the movie showing and signed a petition against bullying.

Looking forward the girls would still like to continue the fight against bullying. “We want to be able to continue with the efforts of the Bully Proof Campaign,” Claire said. Although they are graduating seniors, they still want to maintain the campaign’s visibility through Facebook and other mediums. “We can utilize social media, and different forms of communication to target people.”