DECA students work to bridge gap between middle school and high school

Staff photo by Grace Pecci Senior Nathaniel Tejeda assists ELL students with a game that was created by his DECA acquaintances, Alexis St. Laurent, Elana Finkelstein, Samantha Meyer and Jecca Riley, which teaches the children about running a business.

NASHUA – In efforts to continue aligning curriculum in Nashua’s middle schools with that of the two high schools, teachers, organizers and eight DECA students visited Elm Street Middle School on Friday.

The group met with English Language Learner (ELL) students to inform them of different paths they could take once they get to high school. The main focus of the day was the Career Technology Education option offered at both high schools.

Last month, Nashua Technology Center South Director Mike McQuilkin and four marketing/DECA students, Elana Finkelstein, Samantha Meyer, Jecca Riley and Alexis St. Laurent, visited a DECA classroom at Fairgrounds Middle School to introduce the program to students. They gave the students information about the Nashua Technology Center and had them play an interactive game in which they built their own business.

On Monday, they will have their final visit at Pennichuck Middle School, where they will be presenting to Technical Education and Food and Consumer Science (FACS) classes. McQuilkin has been looking to do something to bridge the gap between the middle schools and high schools with alignment for months.

McQuilkin said exposure is the big piece. A common theme he has noticed is that many parents and students are not familiar with the programs offered at the high school level. There are 19 CTE programs at the two high schools, while there is a Junior Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Students can earn college credits or hours towards a specific license in class. And many don’t know about any of this.

McQuilkin said the industry needs more young employees and wants to get them involved. CTE teacher Christopher Knoetig said BAE Systems in Nashua has offered to partner with students in the video production program for internships, which may be paid. And a reason like this is exactly why they are looking to spread the word around – so that more students can be given more opportunities.

During their Friday visit, the four girls presented a game to the students that they had created. The game involved a Candy Land board with a “Path to Success.”

“I highly recommend you take a CTE course to get a full grasp of what is out there,” St. Laurent told students.

Once the group has finished their presentations, they will be moving on to the next step of their alignment initiative. The next step will be visiting the middle schools again during course selection time to speak with teachers. McQuilkin wants to keep moving forward.

“We don’t want kids to lose out on a great opportunity because of a lack of exposure,” McQuilkin said.

“We’re getting this started, but we also have to keep the ball rolling,” Knoetig added.

Grace Pecci can be reached at