This year, Kingsway’s Business Leadership Academy (BLA) is expanding their club “DECA” into their local communities. Led by senior president, Aliviyah Mateo, the purpose of DECA is to help introduce students to competition in the business world. Kingsway’s chapter of DECA includes 115 students.
DECA stands for Distributive Education Clubs of America, and it is a national organization that connects like-minded, hardworking students from across America.
Each year, the club competes in a two-pronged competition-based program which includes a written test at the end of November and a regional pitch competition in January. The pitch competition consists of a 10 minute preparation period, and a 10 minute presentation period of a pitch deck before a judge who is an active member of the business world.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t really know like anything about anything, but DECA and the Business Academy as a whole kind of open like a whole world of opportunity,” said McKayla Massing, senior member and manager of paper development.
In order to be admitted into BLA as a freshman, students must take Honors Algebra 1 or Geometry during their 8th grade year, both of which are high school math courses. Additionally, all prospective students must be recommended by two teachers and participate in a logic exam outside of school. Once admitted, BLA students are required to take all honors classes throughout high school along with business-focused seminars each year.
Any student who is not interested in, or does not meet the requirements for BLA before they begin high school has the opportunity to join as a junior during “Phase II” entry. These students are held to the same admission standards as those who entered two years earlier.
While BLA is an academic path, DECA stands for so much more. “I just want people to see that young people are really taking initiative to go forth as leaders,” explained DECA Vice President, Olivia Crisfulla.
This year, the club volunteered at Swedesboro Day, collected cards for patients in the oncology unit at Inspira, and hopes to engage with the broader community through various service projects before the leaders graduate this spring. They hosted a Spikeball tournament as a fundraiser at the end of November to conclude DECA month, a nation-wide celebration of students’ hard work in business and entrepreneurship.
“DECA month is hosted by DECA incorporated and is a social media challenge to boost inter-chapter participation and excitement for testing week at the end of the month,” said Aliviyah Mateo, chapter president. She continued by explaining that each day corresponds with a theme and that the club posts funny TikToks and informational posts on their Kingsway DECA Instagram account (@kwaydeca).
“When I joined DECA and BLA, I was actually differed from STEM Academy, and I was really upset because I wanted to be a dentist. And then once I entered into DECA, I found a complete passion for marketing.
“Now I’m going into college. I’m majoring in marketing with a minor in Business Analytics. I used to have bad anxiety, now I’m our chapter’s president, and I hold a lot of leadership roles,” Mateo continued. She is one of many student testaments to the efficacy of the program”, Mateo added.
As they continue their work this year, they want their community to know that they are looking for guest speakers with a business background. They invite community members to come out to their BLA informational sessions and for all middle schoolers to consider joining as they begin to think about high school in the next few years.
By Audrey Pachuta