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Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

Senior Spotlight: DECA Superstars Mia Kalcina and Noah Youkhana

Aisha Saleem
Noah Youkhana and Mia Kalcina pose together with the DECA Diamond.

Seniors Mia Kalcina and Noah Youkhana stand out from the crowd as “DECA Superstars.” Kalcina and Youkhana have both qualified for the International Career Development Conference (ICDC) twice during their DECA journey, Kalcina during her freshman and senior years and Youkhana during his junior and senior years. Both Kalcina and Youkhana have participated in written projects this past year and placed within the top three at the recent state competition a couple of weeks ago, setting an example for all other DECA students to learn from.

DECA advisor and Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship teacher Tricia Brown spoke about Kalcina’s commitment and zeal towards DECA all throughout her high school career, and how it led her to qualify for ICDC for career development. 

“Through her dedication to DECA, Mia has overcome many hurdles and has really proven her strength and determination. She’s been chosen for the business leader award for the department, she’s currently a CEO for the chapter, she helps at chapter meetings, she helps plan events, the list can go on and on for her and I know she’s someone I can count on whenever something needs to get done for the chapter. Mia’s always willing to help,” Brown said. 

Kalcina’s current written project partner, Sabrina Nur, senior, feels Kalcina’s enthusiasm and faith contributed greatly to the success of their project and propelled the team toward the national conference.

“Working with Mia has been really great. We have really great chemistry and she’s a really easy person to work with, which I think led to our project turning out really well and us qualifying for ICDC. She was really good with hyping us up when things weren’t necessarily going too well and we did a really good job collaborating and problem-solving together,” Nur said.

Sabrina Nur and Mia Kalcina posing with their award over placing in the top three at the state competition. 

Kalcina herself shares a little more about her journey, highlighting her favorite and most memorable DECA moments throughout the past couple of years while also speaking about all that she’s gained through DECA.

“Freshman year was really different because it was online. Even though my partner at the time and I ended up advancing to nationals during our freshmen year, I would say that I began enhancing my social skills sophomore year, since it was actually in person and I had to be face to face with an actual judge rather than online,” Kalcina said. “All of my experiences these past four years also helped calm my nerves a lot and made me just a lot more confident and comfortable talking to people I didn’t know. I’m really going to miss all the state competitions, I think those were definitely highlights of every year for me.”

Similarly to Brown’s sentiments about Kalcina, Kalcina also shares her gratitude for Brown and all she’s done to foster Kalcina’s growth and success.

“I really owe a lot to Mrs. Brown because she’s stuck by me this whole time and without her, I don’t think I would’ve come this far or formed the friendships and relationships I’ve formed. I have my DECA besties, all of whom I’ve grown closer to and we’re all going to nationals together so that’s awesome and I can’t wait for the ICDC trip this April,” Kalcina said.

In addition to all of Kalcina’s successes, Youkhana has also proven his dedication to DECA. Senior John Bae expresses how Youkhana’s persona has contributed to his qualifying for ICDC for the second consecutive year and has inspired Bae and others.

“I went to middle school with Noah and ever since then, he’s been a very good student and just a very good person to be around and I think that only enhanced in high school. In DECA specifically, he’s been very committed and I think that’s what’s allowed him to be so successful, as he’s going to nationals for the second consecutive year. He’s definitely somebody who motivates me and others to be a more dedicated participant in DECA and to be a better person in general,” Bae said.

Youkhana himself, who has been in DECA for two years now, describes how he overcame barriers and has thoroughly enjoyed his years as a DECA member.

“My experience has been great, it’s nice to be part of a fun community where everyone kind of knows each other and we’re all friends where we can all have fun and learn about business together. The big thing I’ve been a part of this year has been running DECAlicious, which is the ice cream business, so getting all the experience and overcoming the complications that come along with running a business has been challenging, but also fun. DECA has definitely helped me with my social and interpersonal skills, which is something I feel you need to have to succeed,” Youkhana said. “There was a lot of doubt about me because I joined DECA after Mock Trial disbanded, so I think my first state competition and developing that gratitude that even though DECA wasn’t necessarily what I started doing, after putting in the work, not only was I able to succeed and qualify for ICDC multiple times, but I also had fun doing it.”

Noah Youkhana posing with his medal and award for placing in the top three in his case study and his written event at the state competition.

Youkhana also shares some advice for those who may be thinking of joining DECA or want to improve within the club. 

“If I could share some advice to the younger DECA members or those who want to join the club, I would say to just enjoy the community and realize and take advantage of all the cool people that you’re around that all want to compete and learn about business with you,” Youkhana said. 

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