JOHNSBURG – Sitting down for an interview would have been a terrifying thing for Nick Pease a couple of years ago.
But after two years in the Johnsburg High School DECA Chapter, a business club in its third year, he is a lot more confident – and the chapter's president.
He's ready to go to Atlanta in 16 days for the International DECA Career Development Conference, during which he and 13 other Johnsburg students will compete against other high school students.
"I personally feel like I've learned a lot," Pease said. "It's helped me grow and be more mature. It's helped me be able and go and present to people. Sophomore year if you came and asked to interview me, I wouldn't know what to say. I would be sitting here like a scared little dog."
Pease and his fellow club members earned a place at the international competition by placing first, second or third in one of their events at the Illinois DECA Career Development Conference in Decatur, Ill., in early March, said Jenny Weber, their DECA adviser and a Johnsburg High School business teacher.
Johnsburg High School's DECA Chapter took home 10 first place trophies, the most of any school competing, Weber said.
About 1,300 Illinois students from over 50 high schools participated.
"These kids put some much time and effort in, and I don't think that the outsiders know," she said. "I don't think they understand that they are coming in at 6:30 in the morning. They are staying until 5:30 at night. They have put in a ton of effort. They have put in a ton of work to get where they are."
The students start working on their projects in September, having to complete a 30-page paper before winter break before getting started on their 10-minute presentation. When they step in front of the judge, they also have to be ready for up to five minutes of questions.
Senior Megan Mills, who is the chapter's vice president, worked with Pease and her younger sister, Shannon Mills, to run a breakfast club that sells snacks and drinks before school.
The project, which falls into the Learn and Earn category, earned a first place at state.
They had to keep the cash drawer and tally the receipts, good experience for Megan Mills who is thinking about going into business or accounting next year, she said.
"I'm good at money," she said. "My mom used to make fun of me when I was little because my older sister would spend, spend, spend. Here's me, I would have all my money kept still."
Weber started the chapter three years ago with six boys.
She had belonged to a chapter when she was in high school, and her father, Jim Weber, is one of the co-advisers for the state chapter and sits on its Board of Directors.
"It offered me a lot of opportunities, scholarship opportunities, networking opportunities," she said. "It's still great for networking, even as a teacher. ... I just felt that I got a lot of out it. It helps with public speaking. It helps with engaging with people that you might not normally engage with."