ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – After a top performance at this week’s State Career Development Conference at the Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, Spotswood High School will be sending 33 members of Spotswood High School DECA to Atlanta to compete in the High School Division International Career Development Conference. The conference, which showcases the talents of high school students from all fifty states and seven countries, will be held April 21, April 22, April 23 and April 24 in Georgia.

DECA is a co-curricular program that prepares students for college as well as professional careers by combining classroom instruction with real-life interactions that involve the community and area businesses as well as competitive events.

Twenty-three students qualified to move onto the national stage after their manual presentations in various business-related areas placed in the top 10. An additional 10 members of SHS DECA will head to Atlanta to take part in the conference’s Leadership Academy.

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“They have earned these spots through their participation and dedication to the program,” explained Spotswood High School Business, Vocational and Technical teacher, Kelly Meagher. “We (SHS DECA) earned these spots through various community service endeavors and doing different projects.”

Spotswood DECA organized several charitable events this year including a Color Run to benefit the American Liver Foundation, an Embrace Kids Foundation Walk to support kids and families dealing with cancer and a mum sale to help the Bridge of Books Foundation in Rumson.

“I couldn't be more proud,” Meagher said of her DECA students. “This is the largest attendance in Spotswood DECA's history both at States and the ICDC level. To be able to take over a program that was already successful and take it to that next level has been extremely rewarding. However, my students make it easy. They are an extremely hardworking and dedicated group. It has been unbelievable to see the growth in every one of them just since last year.”

Meagher took over the high school’s DECA program in September of 2016 when she joined the Spotswood High School teaching staff. The veteran educator previously taught in Virginia.

Every Spotswood DECA student that completed and presented a manual will be moving onto the national competition next month.

  • Matt Amador and Gina Ridgway placed fifth for their Public Relations manual.
  • Amanda Mausser and Joey Bartusek placed fifth for their Learn and Earn manual.
  • Megan Clarke and Michaela Robinson placed fifth for their Creative Marketing manual.
  • Liz LoBiondo and Kimmy Lourerio placed fifth for their Community Service manual.
  • Liana Yanchuck and Krista Van Wageninge placed third with their Advertising Campaign manual.
  • Jayme Herman placed second with her Start-Up Business Plan manual.
  • Alessia Tavella and Giavanna Walsh placed fifth for their Sports Entertainment Operations Research manual while Leah Demers and Stephanie Gumprecht placed sixth for theirs in the same category.
  • Erin Drebych and Hannah White placed fourth for their Hospitality and Tourism Operations Research manual.
  • Kimmy Reichardt and Kennedy Simpson placed fifth with their Business Services Operations Research manual.
  • Ryan Miller placed third for his Sports and Entertainment Promotion manual.

Derek Miller, Josh Mathew and Sean Duffy garnered the only first place finish for Spotswood High School DECA. The trio completed a Sports and Entertainment Promotion manual that centered on Six Flags.

Lexi Brown, Kayla Dekovics, Michael Minnihan, Megan Flanigan, Steven Karczewski, Maya Wesen, Shannon Toth, Dylan Molloy, Micaela Tompkins and Gabby Dellaglio will be joining all the manual presenters as participants in the Leadership Academy when Spotswood DECA heads to Atlanta this spring.

In addition to the awards earned by the students, the state DECA conference held a noteworthy moment for Spotswood High School Principal Thomas Calder as well. Calder was honored for his support of the DECA program, being named DECA Administrator of the Year.

While the award came as a total surprise to Calder, Meagher and her students knew ahead of time as did Calder’s wife. They all managed to keep the award under wraps until the big moment. The longtime principal is extremely passionate about the high school’s DECA program and enjoys attending the regional, state and national competitions as a chaperone, supporter and sounding board.

“I’ve seen all the presentations,” Calder said of the 23 manuals presented by Spotswood High School students in Atlantic City. “They practice with me. It’s one of the reasons I go down there. I’m the first judge they go through. It means the world to me. To be recognized at the state level like that was the most awesome feeling.”

While Calder was proud of his DECA Administrator of the Year award, he was more pleased with the performance of the students as well as the hard work and dedication of their advisor and teacher, Meagher.

“I’m pretty much the only principal who ever goes and I’m proud of that,” Calder continued. “I support all my programs. I think it’s important to be there and to let the kids know how proud you are of them. To be administrator of the year was really pretty awesome, but it’s all about the kids.”

Calder teasingly told the students he had a scheduling conflict and would not be able to attend nationals in April. He was immediately met by protests until he told the students he was joking. Calder will accompany Meagher and the 33 students to Atlanta next month. The national competition will be his last as an administrator. Calder will be retiring after 38 years in education at the conclusion of the school year.

The students will be able to put in some more practice before they present their manuals for a final time in Atlanta.

“I would love to have at least one finalist at the international level,” Meagher said of the 23 students presenting. “There have only ever been two in Spotswood DECA's history. Other than that I'm just looking forward to them learning and growing from the experience and to take this opportunity to build for next year”