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State next stop for Penn's DECA Chapter

From left, Penn High School principal Steve Hope, DECA officers Cassidy Jurkaites, Kendra Laidig,
Danielle Kovach, Kyle Cather, and DECA sponsor Stephanie McElwrath. Penn’s DECA Chapter recently
placed first in District competition.


Students in Penn High School’s DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) Chapter traveled to Concord Mall in Elkhart on Thursday, Jan. 14, to showcase their professionalism and business abilities. High school students from across District 2 competed in 26 different role-play events, including everything from “Accounting Applications”, “Restaurant & Food Service Management,” to  “Apparel and Accessories Marketing.”

Of the students representing Penn at the event, 34 students qualified for state. In addition, 56 DECA Students from Penn are moving on in competition and will attend the Indiana State Career Development Conference to compete with students from around the state in Indianapolis Feb. 28-March 1, accpording to Penn High School’s DECA sponsor, Stephanie McElwrath.

Penn senior Cassidy Jurkaites, 3-year DECA member, said, “DECA is a business club in which students take on the role of business professionals and give a solution or pitch to a scenario to judges who are acting as the CEO or heads of companies, and then they are ranked against students who had their same scenario.”

Jurkaites is currently the president of not only Penn’s chapter, but also the President of District 2. As President, she is responsible for keeping track of each member’s participation points, answering questions, and helping fellow DECA members pick an event that best represents their skills, as well as helping coordinate events across the district and working with DECA students from other schools.

Kendra Laidig, Penn sophomore and 2-year DECA member, is an officer on this year’s  DECA board. She joined the club as a freshman, knowing very little information about it.

“... All of the members were very welcoming and Mrs. McElwrath told me everything I needed to know to succeed,” Laidig said.

Laidig joined because she had heard it was “... very rewarding and looked impressive on college applications.”

She has since discovered that it is much more than that!

In the past, Jurkaites competed on the Travel and Tourism Team. In her second year, she chose Professional Selling and advanced to internationals with that event. This year, she is competing in the Financial Consulting Professional Selling event. Her job in this role play event is to sit down with judges, acting as a set of new parents looking into different college saving plans for their child. Her goal is to “educate them on the benefits and drawbacks of different loans and ultimately get them to say yes to the plan I’m advising on.”

    Laidig will compete in the Advertising Campaign event, the same event she competed in last year.

“Basically, my job was to choose an existing product, service, or business, and come up with a year-long campaign to advertise it,” she said. “In the paper, I cover the target markets for the business, the calendar for advertisements and promotions, and the budget.” The paper is then submitted to the judge(s), and the student gives a 10-minute presentation about their paper to that judge at the state conference.

    Laidig said she has gained confidence, public speaking skills, responsibility, and leadership skills through her DECA experience. Her favorite memory is going to Orlando, Florida, last year for internationals.

Jurkaites said, “I have gained the ability to be confident in any situation I’m given. You meet and talk with a lot of different people over the course of your DECA years and DECA has given me the skills to be able to talk to these people in a professional and intellectual way.” Her best DECA memory was making it on stage at 2015 internationals for the top ten presentation.

    Any student interested in joining DECA next year or with any questions can email Stephanie McElwrath at


    For a complete list of students who qualified for state in a role play event, click here!