Woodland DECA Sweeps States- Heads to Nationals

Sophomores can struggle with making their voice heard. However, a lack of seniority did not stop Eliza Smith, Kristen Persico and Shannon Pruzinsky.

Beginning their sophomore year, the three founded and built up the DECA program at Woodland. Over the past two years, the organization has began to flourish among the student body, with their projects only growing.

Because DECA encompasses so much, there is confusion about what the organization actually entails. DECA is an entrepreneurship club, thus there are many aspects to it. One of the main parts, is its school based enterprise. This gives students the opportunity to run the school store, where they learn valuable business skills. The second aspect of DECA is the competition, which consists of nearly 40 different events. Another aspect of DECA is service. This involves doing service projects for the community.


“We have been building up to this over the past few years,” explains DECA president Eliza Smith, “One example is our sandwich making project. It started out small, but this year it was a lot bigger with the whole school being involved.”

Last year Eliza Smith, Kristen Persico, and Shannon Pruzinsky decided that it was time to take it to the next level. After holding various small-scale projects throughout the past two years, they knew they were ready for a challenge. While brainstorming ideas for a big project, a sudden wave of nostalgia hit the three seniors: Zoey 101. A scene from this beloved childhood television show stuck out to them. During this memorable scene, the characters kept their hands on a van, to see who could keep their hand on for the longest time. The seniors took this idea, and ran with it, modifying it along the way. Their end product was an event called “Helping Hands,” which had the goal of bringing community members together for friendly competition.

Participants in “Helping Hands” competed to see who could keep their hand on a bus for the longest time. Winners received various prizes, and entertainment was provided throughout the event. As a result of the girls’ hard work and meticulous planning, the event ended up a big success.


Some of the determined participants in the “Helping Hands” event.

DECA held its annual state competition, SCDC, on March 6th at the Aqua Turf in Southington, Connecticut. Six students attended to represent WRHS DECA. Eliza Smith and Kristen Persico competed in this same competition their sophomore year as a trial run, to see what the competition was all about. Two years later they came back, better than ever with another member: Shannon Pruzinsky. These three seniors competed in the community service project event with their “Helping Hands” project. This event required the submission of a 30 page paper that addressed multiple aspects of their project: how they planned it, who they talked to, and the business aspect.

“It was a lot of information to gather,” elaborates Smith,“and a lot to recall from last year”.

(From left to right) Persico, Smith, and Pruzinsky at the “Helping Hands” event last year; all three girls were sporting double braids and determination.

This competition also required a presentation to a panel of judges, which the students had prepared for, sometimes practicing hours after school. They had to rehearse even the most tedious of things, such as making eye contact and shaking hands.

Being their senior year, preparation for the competition came at a stressful time; the students were worried about college applications and scholarships. Despite the additional stress caused by the competition, Smith said that she would do it all again.

After finishing their presentation, Smith, Persico, and Pruzinsky, jumped down the hall, overjoyed with the way it had gone. The girls were expecting third place, as they knew they done amazing, but they were competing against schools like Middletown High School which has over 70 members in their chapter.  

At the awards ceremony, when Naugatuck High School was called as 3rd place, the three seniors’ happy demeanors changed. They were upset, as they anticipated third and nothing more. Hoping maybe they could have pulled off second place, they waited to be called. After Hamden was announced as second, they felt horrible, thinking that they did not place. What they didn’t know, was that they were about to be called as first place. With no cameras prepared, their jaws dropped and their tears began to flow as they stepped onto the first place pedestal.

“This was like winning a state tournament,” compares Smith.  

Now that they have won, Eliza, Shannon, and Kristen will travel to Atlanta, Georgia to compete in the International Career Development Conference (ICDC). They will re-compete the same project there, after modifying their paper and presentation in accordance to the critiques made by the Connecticut judges. In Georgia, they will be competing against teens from literally everywhere, as it is an international competition.

Feel free to stop by the DECA store and congratulate the girls on their tremendous success.




Edited 4/27/18 1:27 – Included Shannon Pruzinsky in lede and changed “two” to “three’.