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School chapter helps students grow in fun, supportive environment

Apr 16, 2018

PA Cyber students place at states, earn slots at national DECA conference

Before joining PA Cyber’s DECA chapter, Ishra Musa felt “extremely awkward” and out of place, with little knowledge of the professional world. She has since picked up business mannerisms and taken in experiences she believes are pertinent in the professional world.

“I’ve gained my voice through DECA,” said Ishra, a senior from Erie, Pa. “Instead of being very shy, I have the means now to verbally communicate my ideas and thoughts. DECA has taught me more than I could have ever imagined.” 

Ishra is one of nine PA Cyber Charter School students who participated in the recent State Career Development Conference in Hershey, Pa. and took home several honors.

All nine students earned plaques for their participation in the Plan of Action and Thrive categories. Individual students also received awards and a scholarship. 

PA Cyber students who participated in states were Melanie Hulse, Sarah Hulse, Christopher Palmieri, Ishra Musa, Muhammed Musa, Brianna Pritts, Stephanie Edwards, Sarah Seader, and Jasmine Rao. 

Sarah Hulse placed fifth out of 40 competitors in Human Resources Management. Christopher Palmieri placed sixth out of 20 competitors in public speaking. Melanie Hulse won a $500 scholarship.

The state conference is an opportunity for more than 2,000 DECA members to network with and compete against others from around Pennsylvania. The event features high-energy general sessions, competitions, engaging workshops, a fashion show and other activities. 

For Ishra, this was her third and final state conference, and she’s gained plenty from competing.

“I was recently at an internship interview and they openly expressed their awe for the professional manner I showed,” Ishra said. “Being able to give a firm handshake, making good eye contact, and having up-to-date knowledge on concepts of management all helped.”

During the three-day state conference, members compete in hopes of qualifying for the International Career Development Conference. To be eligible to compete at ICDC, participants must place in the top four in their competitive event at this conference.

Whitney Conjeski, club advisor, said because PA Cyber’s DECA participated in the Thrive and Plan of Action categories, students earned six spots to attend the Emerging Leader academies April 20-25 at the International Career Development Conference in Atlanta. Melanie Hulse, Sarah Hulse, Christopher Palmieri, Brianna Pritts, Stephanie Edwards, and Sarah Seader will attend. Although this is not a competition, space is limited. 

“We have had great success by attending Thrive last year,” Conjeski said. “This year not only do we have the first timers to ICDC attending Thrive, but we also have students attending the Ignite, Elevate, and Aspire academies.  By our participation in this conference we hope to continue our success of PA Cyber’s DECA club.”

The international conference is expected to draw more than 16,000 students from across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea, and Europe. 

Christopher Palmieri, a sophomore from Greensburg, Pa., and vice president of communications for the chapter, will attend the international conference. Of the skills he has picked up through DECA, he believes public speaking is one of the most valuable.

“I want to get into politics—something public speaking will help with. DECA has also helped with teaching me interview skills, business management, and especially confidence, which all can be applied to, really, any job or future goal.”

While DECA focuses on business, the PA Cyber students participating in the tight-knit club say not everyone in the club is interested in pursuing business as a career. 

Ishra wants a career in law enforcement or marketing.

Sarah Hulse, vice president of marketing and hospitality, plans to pursue a degree in neuroscience after graduation for a career in the medical field as a physician.

For Sarah, a junior from Canonsburg, Pa., this will be her second time attending ICDC, where she will be participating in an academy program focused on chapter leadership. 

“DECA has been invaluable to that, through guiding me in developing stronger leadership and interpersonal abilities,” Sarah said. “It has solidified how much I enjoy working in a team environment, and that’s really important with medicine becoming increasingly team-based.”

Sarah’s sister, Melanie Hulse, president of the chapter, and a senior, also will attend ICDC. She joined the DECA chapter her sophomore year, not quite sure what she wanted to do as a career but curious about business.

“My future plan is to go to college for marketing and video production,” Melanie said. “I found my love of marketing from being a part of DECA.”

Conjeski said the DECA Emerging Leader Series focuses on providing a comprehensive leadership program for members, with a goal of empowering members to provide effective leadership through goal setting, consensus building and project implementation. The series also prepares members to be effective leaders in college and careers.

DECA is designed to develop future leaders for marketing, management and entrepreneurship. Developing emerging leaders is the core of the DECA experience, according to the organization.

“From DECA, I have learned how to be a leader,” Melanie said.  “Even as a member, there are so many opportunities to lead and learn. Whether you’re interested in business or not, the DECA Club is the place to be.” 

Students say the club has become like a family. The group has a great sense of camaraderie and the students enjoy spending time together discussing their experiences — when they aren’t taking exams or competing in role-playing scenarios. Having a small team in comparison to chapters with more than 100 members also works to their benefit, they said, because they know each well. 

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.