DECA-rated: Business students score top awards at state competition


By Mike Stanford, editor-in-chief
Up on the main stage at the DECA closing ceremonies, senior Kate Ponzi knew she had earned top 10 in Professional Selling, one of her three events. Based on her role plays, she did not expect to receive additional recognition for finishing in the top three.
“Third and second … got called, and I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I didn’t do that well,’” Ponzi said. “Then they called first, and I was really surprised and shocked, and I was like, ‘Oh, really?’”
Ponzi, who also took top 10 in Marketing and Communications and first place in the Virtual Business Challenge, was among the Prospect students recognized at the DECA State Competition in Rosemont. The other top finishers were junior Sarah Ampalloor, who took fourth in Business Finance; senior Grace Connelly, who finished top 10 in Principles of Marketing; juniors David Fang and Austin Sibu, who earned top 10 in Business Law and Ethics and senior Grace Piotrowski, who was Ponzi’s partner in the Virtual Business Challenge.
Most of these events follow the same general structure. Competitors take a general economics test, a “cluster” test relevant to their event and a two role play events, where they are presented a challenge related to their topic and present to a panel. According to business teacher and DECA sponsor Cathy Fortuna, the key to excelling in these events is experience; each student recognized at state had done DECA for at least two years prior.
Ponzi agrees and believes stronger individual preparation and her AP Economics class helped her improve this year. She also thinks College Accounting helped her in the Virtual Business Challenge, which Fortuna says is a unique event for DECA.
The entire competition takes place online on three Monday nights in January. Competitors are given a ledger and are tasked with finding accounting errors as quickly as possible. Because the event was online, Ponzi and Piotrowski were compared to all other participants and were able to earn third place nationwide.
Ponzi will continue to compete in Virtual Business Challenge at the international conference in Anaheim, California from April 26-29. Ampalloor will also be competing in Business Finance. According to Fortuna, the event will host 18,000 students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and seven countries. The competitions will be exactly the same, but Fortuna says the size of the event give it a surreal atmosphere.
Even amongst so many competitors, Fortuna believes that Ponzi has a strong chance to finish top 10 in Anaheim. As her accounting teacher, she has seen Ponzi’s understanding of the subject and her drive to succeed.
“Kate is a mature student,” Fortuna said. “She takes it seriously. She seriously wants to do [well], and she works toward that.”