Atlantic City, NJ - Eighteen members of the South Plainfield High School DECA Chapter competed at the Annual New Jersey State Career Development Conference (SCDC) in Atlantic City March 2-5.  The students prepared for months to compete against peers from all over New Jersey, and several students earned honors.  DECA, Distributive Education Clubs of America, gives high school students experience in the areas of marketing, finance, hospitality and management, preparing the students to become the future leaders of America.

"The NJ DECA State Career Development Conference (SCDC) is three days of leadership training, networking and competition," said Kayla Bryant-Khanutin, who is the co-advisor of the SPHS DECA Chapter along with Kelly Butrico.  "Attended by almost 5,000 people, the students compete in events in hopes of advancing to the International Conference (ICDC)."

Students who attended the event were: Jessica Andrade, Harrison Anesh, Joseph Anesh, Sebastian Annamanthado, Rajan Balkarran, Xavier Brown, Chase Carty, Abdul Cokley, Joseph Feeney, Rebecca Hollo, Aaliyah Howard, Patrick Joyner, Jordan Lovett, Kishen Mangra, Gianna Ruzicka, Alexis Salter, Justin Sogbo and Brian Uba,

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Months were spent preparing for the conference as they got ready to compete against DECA chapters from throughout the state of New Jersey.

"We practiced role plays- 20-minute events where students were given a situation and were expected to develop ways to solve and improve the issue and then presented to a judge," said Jordan Lovett, SPHS DECA President.  "For those competing in written events, such as myself, we practiced our presentation skills numerous times prior to the conference.  For both events, we spent weeks helping our students improve on skills that could give them an edge against the competition in Atlantic City."

Parent Trinette Dungee was a volunteer judge at the conference.

"For the last few years I’ve had the privilege of volunteering at a few of the DECA conferences," said Dungee.  "These kids are nothing short of amazing!  The amount of time and energy they put into their project is a testament to how committed they are to this organization. I’m so proud of them."

Over the three days of rigorous competition, the South Plainfield DECA chapter won in numerous categories.

The winners included the team of Jordan Lovett and Gianna Ruzicka, who earned Third Place overall in the Sales Project Event (PMSP) for their "Vision 2020 Regit Yearbook Campaign."  The team of Jordan Lovett and Gianna Ruzicka also were awarded Gold Level Status in the Chapters Awards Project Event.  

The team of Jessica Andrade and Patrick Joyner were $1,000+ Donation Level/National Qualifiers for Co-Chairing "Battleview Orchards Pie Sale & District Jeans Day" fundraisers for the "Good Grief" Foundation.

Jordan Lovett was also recipient of the DECA Central Regional Scholarship.

"In all honesty, I was slightly overwhelmed winning in the categories we did," said Lovett.  "For months, we had been working hard to perform as well as possible in order to place for nationals. So having the opportunity to go on stage three times and receive recognition for my efforts was truly rewarding." 

Each year students work to quality to compete against DECA students from all over the country at the DECA International Conference.  Due to the COVID-19 quarantine, however, this year there will be no conference, which was a huge disappointment for the students and staff.

"Unfortunately, this year's ICDC was canceled, but our students worked so hard to prefer their written report, visual and spoken presentation," said Bryant-Khanutin.  "I am proud of their efforts."

 "My son was given the opportunity go to Nashville, TN for Nationals, but due to COVID-19, unfortunately, the conference was canceled," said Dungee.  "It would have been a great way to end his senior year as a DECA member. I learned while judging during the Regional Conference in January they there is actually a collegiate chapter. I hope he and his classmates continue in college." 

Overall, students say they enjoyed the experience of the Annual New Jersey State Career Development Conference and felt accomplished with their achievements. 

"I believe that our chapter, given this was the first state conference for many of them, did well," said Lovett.  "The returning members were able to serve as a guide throughout our time there. It was easy to see that everyone who went wanted to be there and do well.  In the end, we had four students qualifying for nationals.  As one of the four, I felt that all the hard work my partner and I put in was proven by placing in both of our events."

"After devoting themselves to months of preparation, we are so proud of all the students," said Bryant-Khanutin.  "And Congrats to our winners!"

The DECA chapter at SPHS is a growing organization that prepares students for their future with real-life business scenarios.  DECA prepares students for success in the competitive world they will encounter as they build their own careers.  Emphasis is also placed on service to community.  SPHS students can contact Kayla Bryant-Khanutin via email for more information ( about joining the organization for the school year 2020-2021.