Three Verona High School students are going to Orlando next week, but it’s not going to be a vacation. Filip Babalievsky, Paul Corrente and Marc Cortese participate in a business education program at VHS called DECA, and they are going to Florida to participate in DECA’s annual national competition.
The three earned their way to the competition by winning a series of regional and state events that began early this year. Competing both as individuals and teams on topics from automotive marketing to quick-service restaurants, the students prepare written presentations, take a rigorous 100-question exam and face one or two role-playing challenges before a panel of judges for which they get just 10 minutes to prepare. There are some 40 students in the DECA program at VHS, and they generally find themselves competing against far larger teams: Faculty adviser Joel Throne says that there are 400 students in the Northern Highlands Regional High School DECA club and 600 in that of Washington Township High School.
Twenty-one VHS students were finalists at the DECA Regional Competition held at Middlesex Community College in February and advanced to the state competition at the Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill on March 6. Babalievsky competed in Automotive Services Marketing, while Corrente and Cortese focused on Sports and Entertainment Marketing. Among the other competitors were Alyssa DiGiacinto and Jason Lawrence, also in Sports and Entertainment Marketing; Margaret Dougherty and Lauren Smith in Marketing Communications; Lisa Fitzgerald, Kweku Sapara-Grant and Gopi Patolia in Professional Sales; Nic Freschi and Troy Locatell in Retail Merchandising; Mette Kolind in Quick-Service Restaurant; Cara McGinley in Principles of Hotel and Lodging; Samantha Snyder and Briana Tansey in Business Services; Danny Stryker in Marketing Management; and Jeremy Yenko in Principles of Business Administration. In addition, Claudia Rollo and Aria Straus wrote an 11-page paper on how to create an event to raise money to support cancer, while Nick Lukas presented a paper in the Entrepreneur event and Emma Newkirk and Shannon Garner competed in the Advertising Campaign event.
Babalievsky, Corrente and Cortese finished high enough to earn the right to represent New Jersey in the national event, but several other students got high marks for their presentations, including Freschi, Newkirk, McGinley and Locatell. Patolia, who is Verona DECA’s president, was awarded a $1,000 Central Region DECA Award Scholarship; Verona students have won that scholarship for the past five years. Mr. Throne was awarded an Honorary Life Membership in DECA for his service to the organization and his students.
The stakes will be high in Orlando and the competition is likely to be fierce: Some 15,000 students are attending.