Marjory Stoneman Douglas Spotlights Two Remarkable Students

When Sharon Cutler, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was asked to recommend two students to spotlight, it wasn’t an easy decision.  “We have an outstanding student body, with young people who excel in a broad spectrum of studies,” she said.  Mrs. Cutler is an Academy of Finance Lead Teacher and DECA Advisor.  She’s also a CPA!

True to her “assignment,” Cutler did decide on two students… Zachary Schaja and Austin Tedesco.  Both have excelled in their special areas of interest and like many of the other students, show great promise for future success.

“I have a unique position being the Academy of Finance lead teacher and DECA Advisor as I get to see students develop in the program from Freshman to Seniors,” Mrs. Cutler noted.  “Both Zachary and Austin have stood out from the very beginning as leaders and very well liked by their peers. Both got quickly involved in the DECA program and excelling in the Academy of Finance.  Austin continues to amaze me. Zachary, in two short years at High school took the meaning of leadership to the next level.”

“The Academy of Finance program (AOF) is part of the National Academy Foundation (NAF) and our school started this program over 10 years ago,” Mrs. Cutler explained. AOF connects high school students to the world of finance and includes all aspects of the real world of finance and business. “In our current economy, I feel it is even more important that young adults learn financial literacy.  In addition, as part of the AOF program the students have a Financial Internship the summer between their Junior and Senior year where they work and get paid and put their skills to work,” Mrs. Cutler explained.”  

The DECA program at MSD was resurrected when Mr. Cutler arrived at MSD in 2005 and has grown in 7 years from less than 30 members to over 320 members this past school year.  “We have much success this year; 90 students earned a spot to compete at DECA States and 40 moved on to compete at the International level this year,” she stated with pride.

So, at Mrs. Cutler’s suggestion, we’re shining the Lifestyle Magazine Group’s spotlight on Zack and Austin!

Austin Tedesco…

Austin Tedesco is excited about finishing his junior year and looking forward to being a senior.  He’s the President of DECA, Vice President of Broward County National Honor Society and Treasurer of Mu Alpha Theta!  As if all of that wasn’t time consuming enough, Austin is an avid varsity Lacrosse player.

Being part of the Academy of Finance at school has helped to shape his keen interest in pursuing a career in business and finance.  With an awesome entrepreneurial spirit, Austin admits that his passion is “… making money.”  One of the ways he does that now is by selling on eBay random items that he no longer has use for. “I thrive on working hard in any undertaking,” he said and noted that even in sports, he goes the extra mile.  As a youth lacrosse official, he has refereed games over the past three years in Coral Springs, Parkland and Davie, admitting he not only enjoys being a referee, but it’s both “… exhilarating and challenging… and it pays very well!”

Surrounded by a loving and supportive family, Austin’s father, Dave, works for a local bank and his mother, Karen works in the insurance field.  “My brother, Tyler, just graduated from New York University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.  My sister, Bianca just finished 8th grade and will attend Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale to begin her high school years.” 

With creative thinking, enthusiasm and a strong drive to achieve success, Austin recently entered a Business Plan Competition sponsored by Florida Atlantic University… and he won FIRST PLACE… which included a $25,000 scholarship!

“My plan was for a business called “beforeyouturnitin.com,” a website for students to submit their essays to be proofread by teachers in their free time,” he gleamed.  “I worked on the plan for more than three months before my final presentation in front of the judges at FAU.”  He was happy and proud of the fact his hard work paid off in such a big way.

Austin embraces social media, including Facebook to stay in touch with fellow students who have a particular teacher, officers of various clubs and friends that like to arrange special events.  He uses Twitter primarily for entertainment.  Not all business, Austin admits that he likes to read the funny one-line jokes that some of the users tweet.

Zachary Schaja

Entering his junior year, 16-year old Zachary Schaja is actively involved with DECA, an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.  The program is offered in high schools and colleges around the globe.  Zack is a member of English Honor Society, National Honor Society, and Save What’s Left.  He’s already decided on a career in finance.

“I joined DECA my freshman year and traveled to the State competition as well as the international leadership conference that year,” Zack said.  “My sophomore year, I was the recording secretary for our school’s DECA chapter.”  Deciding to run for Florida DECA Vice President that year, he and his chapter ran a campaign which resulted in him getting elected. 

At that same conference, Zack competed in “Financial Services Team Decision Making” where along with Gabe Lam, they took a multiple-choice test as well as a role-play – which is a mock business-like situation and placed 3rd in the state.  They then traveled to Salt Lake City for the international competition. 

Family is very important… “I always enjoy traveling with my family.  We have been to Europe, Israel, all around the continental US, and now that school is over, I am getting excited about our trip to Iceland,” he enthused.  His father Ian,  is an anesthesiologist and mother Andrea  is the founder and president of the PTSA at his school. His 14-year old brother Michael will be starting his high school career at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School next year. 

With a passion for sports as well as outdoor adventure, you’ll find Zack with his friends just about every weekend, playing football, basketball, and tennis in the local parks.  He’s an avid New York Jets and the Miami Heat fan. 

“For the past few summers I have participated in an outdoor education program called Adventure Treks, where I’ve done 3-week trips involving hiking, biking, sailing, backpacking, rafting, canoeing, and mountain climbing, in Northern California and British Colombia.”

Last summer he also participated in an internship with the SCA (Student Conservation Association), a non-profit organization that works to maintain National Parks and other areas monitored by the National Park Service.

Zack uses Facebook to communicate with friends and family and Florida DECA members and Wiggio for group assignments for DECA.

Pursuing his current activities… and more… Zack plans on attending a 4-year university with a top business school.

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