Shrewsbury DECA team finds success in inaugural year

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Shrewsbury DECA team finds success in inaugural year
The SHS DECA team poses for a picture after competing in the state tournament in Boston. Members pictured include Arya Shinhoj, Josie Sawyer, James Troy, Fawwaz Naeem, Trung Nguyen, Shiv Patel, Nayan Kaul, Nuha Salam, Mariyah Khokhar, Neha Kasibhatla, Shamika Kanitkar, and Swathi Kannan. (Photo/Courtesy JASON ANDREOLA)

SHREWSBURY – In September, a group of students along with Business and Technology teacher Jason Andreola founded Shrewsbury High School’s (SHS) first DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) team. By March, several of those students found themselves succeeding in state competitions and qualifying for an international tournament.

While the students have advanced through several rounds of competition to be considered for the international stage, the group will ultimately need the support of the community if they are to compete.

DECA at Shrewsbury High School

The heart of DECA is competition. Participants are asked to pitch business ideas, analyze case studies, and are tested on their business acumen. To succeed, students learn to think critically and develop crucial communication skills.

Though DECA is incredibly popular in surrounding districts, Shrewsbury became involved only recently. Last April, students Fawwaz Naeem and Swathi Kannan approached Andreola, desiring to start a DECA chapter at Shrewsbury High School.

Interest in business was rising at SHS, and courses in business were added at the high school. After several meetings and exploration of ideas, Andreola and the students joined forces to create the first DECA chapter at Shrewsbury High School.

In a statement given to the Community Advocate, Assistant Superintendent for Community Partnerships and Well-Being Jane Lizotte noted that Andreola “chose a career in education following a very successful career in business because he is committed to supporting students in and out of the classroom.”

“Andreola facilitates learning opportunities with members of the DECA team that include the development of leadership and business skills and the exploration of a variety of career fields,” she continued.

Shrewsbury students were eager for competition.

With support and approval from the school administration; willingness from Andreola to lead the program and the students seeking advice from their peers from Westborough, Algonquin, and Saint John’s DECA programs, SHS’s DECA chapter was established in September.

“I think there was high interest in business-related activities,” said club co-president Shiv Patel. “DECA came at the perfect time; it was the perfect opportunity for students to participate.”

Though not everyone attends competitions, the club currently has over 50 members.

For students like James Troy, DECA was a natural fit.

“We have 2,000 kids in this school, so there’s bound to be a lot of kids interested in business. I know for me, I was doing business-related things on my own, and through… the financial literacy course I took, I was able to get introduced to DECA,” Troy said. “It was a really nice fit for me. It fit what I was already doing.”

Though the club is new, the squad has placed well in competitions.

Twelve students competed in the state tournament, and five became finalists. Nayan Kaul earned second place in the personal financial literacy competition and had the highest written exam score. Swathi Kannan and Shamika Kanitkar took home medals, while Mariyah Khokhar and Nuha Salam placed fourth in the entrepreneurship team decision making category.

The experience was incredibly exciting for many of the competitors.

“We went into it blindly, so we weren’t entirely sure about the level of competitiveness at the state level. There were a lot of people there, so it was very surprising when we were called up,” Salam said.

DECA looks toward international competition

SHS’s five state finalists qualified for the International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Orlando, Fla. Over 20,000 high school students from around the world will head to the conference.

However, there is worry that SHS’s qualifiers will not be able to make the trip.

According to a post in the Community Bulletin, the cost for each person to attend is $2,000, and because it’s the chapter’s first year, there are inadequate funds to support the cost for all five to attend.

The group has recently held a fundraiser to earn money for travel, but is currently seeking community support to aid with the cost of the trip.

“Since we’re a first-year team, we would get to represent Shrewsbury there. There are a lot of schools that have been doing this longer that don’t have any students showing up, so for us to get to this milestone is an achievement,” Khokhar said.

“We’ve put in a lot of work throughout the year — we’ve prepared for districts, we’ve prepared for states — it would mean a lot to all of us if we were able to see our efforts realized,” Kaul explained.

Whether the state finalists head down to Florida or not, club members said they have exciting plans for the future, including competing in additional categories and involving themselves more with the local community.

“Clearly we’re a first-year club and we’re just learning what we’re doing during the competitive season, so as we grow our club in the coming years, we also hope to provide opportunities for the community as well to see what we’re doing at DECA and have their support for the coming years,” Kannan said.

Contact Jane Lizotte at [email protected] if you are able to make a donation to help defray the cost for one or more students to attend the conference.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information on the formation of the Shrewsbury DECA. 

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