Mt. Hope’s DECA best are heading west


Like other students at Mt. Hope High School, Melanie Barbary, Kristina Lynch, Ben Ratier and Justin Ursini are likely to be found participating in extracurricular activities such as athletics, arts, dance, or HNN, the school’s television station. But when they are together with the group of 24 students who participate in Mt. Hope’s DECA program, the high school students realize that high school will soon give way to college and career. Through DECA, they’re taking every opportunity to prepare themselves for what’s to come and are already proving they have what it takes to succeed.

“It’s not going to be mommy and daddy forever,” said Kristina.

Although Kristina said she always dreamed of becoming a doctor, after helping out at her mother’s dog grooming business and interacting with business professionals through DECA, she also likes the idea of owning or helping smaller businesses grow.

“I like the smaller aspect, where there’s a story behind (the business). I like relying on myself,” Kristina said.

On April 23, Kristina, Melanie and Burke O’Brien, members of Mt. Hope’s DECA chapter will have to rely on themselves as they tackle real life business issues.

On March 11, they learned of their selection among students from Rhode Island who competed at a statewide competition and will now compete at the International Career Development Conference held in Anaheim, Calif.

Both the state and International competitions consist of a 100 question written exam, then the participants are handed a case study that describes an actual situation one would find in a business scenario. Competitors are given 10 minutes to study the case and devise a solution to a real life problem.

In preparation, the students engage in role playing activities, not knowing what level of the hierarchy they will be expected to assume, or who they will be responding to with a resolution to the unknown problem.

“That’s a lot to digest,” said Justin. “What’s important, what’s not. It makes you think on your feet.”

Like Kristina, Justin also helped out in his family’s business where helping customers was part of his duties.

“I never really thought about it, but (DECA) is the best way I’ve learned problem solving skills,” Justin said.

Coaching the program at Mt. Hope are teachers, Maureen Gauthier and Brian Latessa who see the results of students who take their futures seriously.

“A lot of our past students have come back and thanked us for DECA after they’ve gone on to careers in the business field,” said Mr. Latessa.

Through participation in DECA competitions, students are opened up to networking opportunities with business professionals who offer advice and mentoring to the high school students.

“The experience that students get through DECA improves their business skills beyond the classroom,” said Ms. Gauthier.

The teachers also help the students to realize that sometimes two career paths can intermingle, as with the case of Kristina’s childhood dream of becoming a doctor.

“When you open your own practice, you will be a small business owner,” Mr. Latessa pointed out.

Fund-raising for International conference

In preparation for the California trip, the students are planning fund-raising activities to help offset the cost to their families.

On March 27, DECA will host a ‘Bring Back Summer Dinner’ from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Mt. Hope. The students described the event as ‘a big cookout’.

On March 29, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., LaVida Fitness will host a zumba class to benefit the school’s DECA trip. Participation cost $10. All and more are welcome.



Ben Ratier, Melanie Barbary, Justin Ursini and Kristina Lynch, members of Mt. Hope High School’s DECA chapter will attend the International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, California. Not pictured are Burke O’Brien, Gabriel Cruz and Dan Rensehausen.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.