Students shine at first-time DECA competition

The eight Prospect DECA students who medaled at their competition at the Rosemont Convention Center on Nov. 10. (Photo courtesy of Paul Hennig)
By Meghan Doyle
Executive News Editor
Instead of putting on jeans and a t-shirt on the morning of Nov. 10, seniors Kevin Atwood and Erich Beer put on their business suits for their first real DECA (formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America) competition at the Rosemont Convention Center.

This is the first year Prospect has engaged in DECA, mostly prompted by Beer, whose father runs the DECA program at Maine South High School. Business education teachers Paul Hennig and Cathy Fortuna were happy to be the advisors for the new club, in order to enhance the preexisting business curriculum at Prospect.

The DECA career cluster signifies the four main areas of DECA business focus. (Photos courtesy of

According to, the DECA mission statement is to prepare “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.” The participants at each competition take an economics test before going into their individual events and role-playing face-to-face with a qualified judge from the professional business field.

The club is open to any Prospect student that has taken at least one semester of a business class, so Hennig played commercials in his business classes to spread the word.
Atwood decided to join because he knew friends that wanted to participate, and because he enjoys being involved in business.
“It’s a good way to get hands-on [experience],” Atwood said. “It’s real, as long as you take it seriously.”
The current DECA logo represents an entrepreneurship experience for high school and college students alike.

For some, the club provides the unique experience needed to succeed beyond high school.
“DECA’s huge…to get into [University of] Illinois business school,” said Beer, who wants to attend there in the fall. “I like the atmosphere. It’s fun, [and] there’s nothing like it.”
Hennig appreciates that the club encourages good social skills with both judges and other competitors, as well as it being a good way to get involved.
Hennig also said he enjoys seeing the students dress up and actively participate in a business environment.
“Just seeing them stand up there and win a medal in something that we just started was kind of a big deal,” Hennig said.
The DECA career cluster signifies the four main areas of DECA business focus. (Photos courtesy of

In order to get the chance to win a medal, the team practices once a week by using prompts supplied by DECA and taking previous economics tests.
Because this is the first year for all of them, the team, especially Hennig, is learning on the go.
“I’m pretty open with my students,” Hennig said. “I [said,] ‘Guys, we’re going into this together for the first time.'”
The team’s first time ended up going better than expected. Prospect’s DECA club sent 14 competitors to this past competition, eight of which medaled, out of around 1,000 students. With a first showing like this, there is definitely a future for DECA at Prospect. According to Atwood and Beer, Hennig will make sure it stays around.
This March, the team is already anticipating the state competition in Decatur, Ill. Seniors Matt Sesterhenn, Angelo Goutanis, Kyle Mortimer, Beer, Riana Alexandrou, Simon Mischenko and juniors John Gemkow and Anya Salnikova will have to put their best foot forward in order to come out on top. Even still, just being at the competitions is worth it.
“I like the atmosphere,” Beer said. “It’s fun; there’s nothing like it.”

To see a list of DECA events, for each student participates in a different one, click here.