DECA Regional Conference Draws Over 800 Area Students to Campus

Students talk on the balcony of the Camps Rec Center Image by Ed Brennen
DECA participants from Billerica High School wait for their event at the Campus Recreation Center.

By Ed Brennen

Greg Montemurro remembers being in their shoes.

Three years ago, as a senior at Westford Academy, Montemurro was among the hundreds of high school students who descended on the Campus Recreation Center for a district conference of DECA, an international organization that prepares high school and college students for business careers and entrepreneurship through conferences and case-study competitions.

The Manning School of Business was hosting the event for the first time, and Undergraduate Admissions offered participants campus tours during breaks in the activities.

“At the time, I didn’t know I was going to be a River Hawk. But coming to campus for the competition definitely added to my overall picture of UMass Lowell,” says Montemurro, now a sophomore business administration major in the Manning School with concentrations in finance and analytics and operations management and a minor in computer science.

The Manning School recently hosted DECA’s District 5 conference for the third consecutive year, drawing more than 800 sharply dressed students and 200 teachers and guidance counselors from nine area high schools: Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groton-Dunstable, Nashoba Regional, Phillips Academy Andover, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough and Westford.

Student tour guides pose for a photo at the Rec Center Image by Ed Brennen
Student tour guides were on hand at the Campus Rec Center to show DECA participants the Pulichino Tong Business Center and other spots on campus.

“It seems to be getting bigger and better each year,” says Manning School Dean Sandra Richtermeyer, who sees hosting the event as a way to showcase the university for business-minded students and volunteer judges from the business community.

Kevin Willett, an adjunct faculty member in the Manning School and business consultant, has volunteered as a DECA judge for the past three years.

“I love the energy and excitement of watching the students prepare for the competition,” Willett says. “I am amazed by their maturity and professionalism. DECA does an incredible job growing the confidence of these students.”

Students interested in continuing with DECA in college can do so in the Manning School, as recent alumni Drew Lambert and Hanifa Nankinga revived the school’s chapter three years ago.

This year for the first time, Richtermeyer and several Manning School students (including senior Kellsie Howard, who helped organize the first high school event in 2017) hosted around 50 of the DECA participants for lunch at University Suites, followed by a talk on “chasing your passion” from motivational speaker Corey Ciocchetti, an associate professor of business ethics and legal studies at the University of Denver.

Students cheer during the awards presentation Image by Ed Brennen
Students celebrate during the awards portion of the DECA competition at the Campus Rec Center.

“He was really good. It was all about keeping your priorities in check,” says Dracut senior Jake Mercier, who learned in December that he had been accepted to the Francis College of Engineering and Honors College through the early application process.

While he was already familiar with the campus (his family has season tickets to River Hawks hockey), Mercier liked what he saw of the Pulichino Tong Business Center during a morning tour.

“The new building looks fantastic,” says Mercier, who placed third in the business services marketing series event. “I think if I come here, I might minor in business.”

Holding his first-place trophy from the principles of business management event, Phillips Academy junior Anay Mehta of Andover surveyed the Campus Rec Center lobby as he waited for his ride home.

“I haven’t been here before, but the campus is nice. I like it,” said Mehta, who added that he’s considering applying to UMass Lowell. “Everyone did a great job here today. I really enjoyed it.”