SOUTH PLAINFIELD - South Plainfield High School’s DECA Chapter held their 2019 Induction Ceremony and Installation of Officers and Executive Board on the evening of Oct. 29 in the high school auditorium.  Distributive Education Club of America, also known as DECA, is an international organization for emerging leaders in the areas of business and marketing.  The organization was first established in 1946 and has over 200,000 members throughout the world.  

“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these hardworking students,” said Co-Advisor of the SPHS DECA Chapter, Kelly Butrico.  “I truly enjoy watching them develop and grow with the program.”

“It’s a wonderful organization and they had a beautiful ceremony,” said Principal Robert Diehl.  “A testament to how well it is is the number of how many people were there.  We had a number of parents, community members, students and teachers, all in support of DECA.” 

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South Plainfield High School Teacher Kayla Bryant-Khanutin first brought the idea of starting a DECA chapter in South Plainfield.  A North Brunswick High School DECA alumni herself, says Bryant-Khanutin says DECA is multifaceted and prepared her for life after graduation.

“Since starting this chapter six years ago, Mrs. Butrico and I have seen a steady increase in member attendance at meetings, participation in events, and success rates at all levels of competition,” said Bryant-Khanutin.  “Our students are setting goals and working hard to achieve them, and for that, we are so proud!”

South Plainfield High School is part a more than 3,500 high school DECA chapters that prepare students for successful futures, equipping them with the tools and experience necessary to succeed in the world.

“DECA is an internationally recognized co-curricular organization that provides students with remarkable experiences and prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs,” said Butrico.

DECA gives high school students experience in the areas of marketing, finance, hospitality and management, preparing the students to become the future leaders of America.

“I think DECA is a good experience for anyone because of the skills it teaches you,” said Patrick Joyner, senior and Executive Board member.  “It’s really life changing because it helps people break out of their shells and become better at public speaking, which is something I struggled with when I was a freshman.  Now as a senior, it’s super easy to just talk.”

Senior and DECA Executive Board member Kishen Mangra is already a business owner.  With his brother Kieran Mangra and friend Biren Patel, Kishen Mangra launched a line of affordable street wear products called BnK Clothing.  

“Last year we became official owners of BnK Clothing and it was a really big deal for us,” said Kishen Mangra.  “We have a website where people can purchase products.  I really like the business aspect of DECA and the creativity.  You come up with your own solutions to the scenarios presented and gain higher level thinking skills.” 

An extremely competitive program, DECA members from each chapter travel to competitions on the regional, state, and international levels.   

“With over 220,000 members worldwide, DECA offers its participants a wide array of real-world experience, by the way of marketing, problem solving, networking and event planning,” said Bryant-Khanutin.

DECA students attend four conferences throughout the year: Chapter Officer Leadership Training (COLT), Regional Conference at Kean University, State Conference at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, and have an opportunity to participate in the International Conference. 

“DECA also teaches you creative thinking and fast thinking,” said Joyner.  “Due to the nature of the club, it’s very productive and fast action.  You have to use fast-paced thinking, not only for the business world, but in your everyday life.  So it’s very educational and has a very big impact in life.”  

Students make connections from all over the country as they travel to conferences.  As students progress in higher education on the college level or in the workplace, they have a network of DECA members to continue to connect with and draw upon.

“The people that I met at the conferences, I still keep in contact with today,” said Tatiana Ishod, 2017 SPHS graduate.  “I found people who were in DECA for the Georgia chapter and other places in other states.  DECA has given me a lot of friendships, memories and skills.  I’m able to talk in front of crowds and not feel nervous.”  

“DECA was one of the best things that my kids were ever introduced to,” said Amy Joyner, President of the DECA Parents Association.  “It taught them how to public speak.  It also taught them to present themselves, how to dress in business, how to communicate.  It gives them a sense of worth, it helps them to communicate and gravitate other students into the DECA family.”  

At the Oct. 29 ceremony, members took oaths to uphold their positions within the club.  

“Our chapter exists and thrives working towards many goals,” said Bryant-Khanutin as she opened the ceremony.  “These goals include, but are not limited to: assisting in the growth and development of DECA on the state and national level, further development of the respect for the education and business marketing, and understanding and appreciation for the responsibilities of the citizenship of our competitive system.”

Bryant-Khanutin explained that their goals are reached by daily implementing activities to enhance confidence, innovation, integrity and teamwork.  

Installed in their positions as South Plainfield High School DECA Chapter Officers were:  Jordan Lovett as President, Gianna Ruzicka as Vice President, and Patrick Joyner as Recording Secretary.  

The Executive Board members installed were: Jessica Andrade, Harrison Anesh, Joseph Anesh, Xavier Brown, Rebecca Hallo, Kishen Mangra.

DECA’s returning members were also asked to raise their hands and take an oath before receiving their certificate of membership.  Returning members included: Eric Ascencio, Rajan Balarran, Jeremy Burrell, Erik Callejas, Chase Carty, Abdul Cokley, Joseph Feeney,  Chioma Ibeku, Kathryn Lenau, Pharaoh Osborne, Jason Rodas, Justin Rodas, Brian Uba.

The newest members of DECA were formerly inducted and received their certificates.  Those installed as DECA members of the South Plainfield High School DECA Chapter were:  Yasmin Ali, Sebastian Annamanthado, Melissa Calderon, Colin Carey, Nicole Freire, Kendell Harris, Andrew Hing, Aaliyah Howard, Brandon Melgar, Mary O’Dell, Alexia Piper, Amber Sanchez, Alexis Salter, Amanda Senatore, Justin Sogbo, Amy Swartz, Karl Torralba, Kaivon Wright.

“I do see myself in the future career of business and marketing so I thought this club was the perfect club for me,” said Sebastian Annamanthado, Junior.  “A lot of my friends are in DECA and they speak very highly of it.  They talk about a lot of experiences they had and I just wanted to be a part of it and better myself.”

“My friend Kathryn Lenau said she really enjoyed DECA so that interested me to do something and become a member too,” said Mary O’Dell, sophomore.   “I took Intro to Business last year and I really enjoyed it.  The idea of doing DECA with my friends made it even better, so I’m really excited for what this chapter will bring me and what skills I’m going to enhance.”  

The ceremony featured alumni of DECA to offer their experiences and advice to the students.

“A highlight of the ceremony may have been the alumni coming back and sharing their experiences and telling our students now how important DECA is to them,” said Diehl.  “The speeches were really good and show that the skills you learn in DECA, you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.  That’s extremely important.” 

Crucial skills of life and business that student will use throughout their careers is the main focus of DECA, however the club stresses the importance of community service and philanthropy.  Students work together to help the community and organizations that need support.  All income generated from this year’s annual pie sale will go to Good Grief.  

“Good Grief is basically to help those who are going through the grief process from the loss of a family member,” said Amy Joyner.  “Every bit of the pie sales goes to Good Grief.”

DECA students also volunteer each year for Thanksgiving Dinner at the Senior Center and make gingerbread houses with residents of the Woodlands Nursing Home.    

The DECA Parent Organization is extremely active in fundraising to not only help those in need, but to help pay for their conferences.  South Plainfield’s DECA club is responsible for paying for school buses to transport students to events as well as many other expenses incurred.  Several fundraisers help to offset the costs.  Joyner says parents are more than welcome to become part of the organization and offer fundraising ideas.  

“We try to do a big fundraiser every year in February,” said Joyner.  “We call it a Masquerade Party.  We have it in South River at a wonderful restaurant called Ria Mar.  At the end of the actual event, they put out take home containers and parents love that.  We have a great DJ who has donated his time and services for the past two years.”

The evening concluded with a reception and cake to celebrate the occasion.  The 2019 DECA chapter in South Plainfield is ready for an exciting year ahead.  

“Anyone can stand up in front of a classroom and tell you what to do or study, but the opportunities provided to high school students, that compete at a DECA conference, cannot be found anywhere else,” said Bryant-Khanutin.  “Members are motivated to perform well with promises of scholarships and conference travel.” 

“I was proud to see how many people we had to support DECA,” said Diehl.  “As educators, we try to prepare our students for the world of having a profession, and you can’t find a better organization than DECA to prepare  the students for that.  It’s encouraging to see that the numbers are growing and I have total faith that this group is going to move forward and do some great things this year.”