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Catherine Argyrople from the Spring 2014 semester has recently exceeded all of her expectations when it comes to creating a business from scratch. We caught up with her to learn about Catherine Argyrople Photography and how DECA is pushing her to reach new achievements in its competitions.

From a young age, Catherine has always risen to any challenges in front of her. She is a survivor of childhood Neuroblastoma, and if Catherine could beat cancer as a child, she is now well on her way to achieving anything she sets her mind to. Catherine attended the Island School as a sophomore after hearing about it from a family friend while in the sixth grade. Even at such a young age, Catherine had “always been interested in marine conservation and sustainability, so I immediately fell in love with the program and was determined to go when I was old enough!” Catherine had a fantastic time during her semester and completed the half-marathon successfully despite knowing it was going to be a huge challenge for her. After returning home, she chose to continue running long distances, including another half-marathon. The race was in October of 2014 for Dana Farber, a cancer institution in Boston. Catherine has dedicated much of her free time to community service work in support of various cancer organizations like Dana Farber, The Jimmy Fund, and Relay For Life. This continues to be a priority for her because, as a survivor, “I am extremely connected to these local cancer institutions because I was treated there. I also love doing service work in general, and fundraising for Relay For Life allowed me to give back to an organization that did so much for me when I was a cancer patient.”

Another large chunk of Catherine’s time back home has been spent creating her freelance photography business, which has been met with enormous success. Catherine has “worked with over 85 clients in 2015 alone, not only in my hometown of Weston, Massachusetts, but communities over 25 miles away as well.” To say that she is in-demand is a significant understatement! The inspiration for her photography business stemmed from her desire to go on a gap year before attending college. She figured she could use her skills in media and photography, which she had been developing in classes since middle school, to help fund it. So in the fall of 2014, Catherine began her freelance photography and never looked back.

After Catherine’s photography business flourished in the fall, “I decided I wanted to make a business plan to further grow and expand the business.” To follow through on this, she joined her school’s DECA club. DECA is a business competition for high school students in over 3,500 school communities to compete on district, state, and international levels. Each competition features many different categories of events but they all fall under five career clusters. These clusters are: business management/administration, finance, entrepreneurship, hospitality/tourism, and marketing. As Catherine was looking to build a business plan for her photography work, she joined an event in the entrepreneurship category called Business Growth Plan. In her prep for the event, Catherine wrote a 30-page business plan that analyzed her work in Catherine Argyrople Photography and projected how to grow the business over the next five years. In addition to the 30-page report, Catherine crafted a presentation to give at the competition.  Catherine holds herself to high standards with her work and labored for a long time over her business plan. She set a goal for herself of finishing in the top four of the statewide competition, which was the requirement for making it to the international level.  Catherine was thrilled when she surpassed her goal and achieved first place in the category! Her next step is the International Competition held in Nashville in April. Over 15,000 student competitors will be in attendance, which is a huge jump from the 2,500 at the state event in Massachusetts. Her new goal is to finish in the top 10 out of 100+ competitors in the Business Growth category. She is “not sure how feasible this goal is but I am certainly willing to try!”

The competitions can be a huge and daunting task, but Catherine felt “more confident in my project and was really in my element while presenting my business plan in front of the judge. I put my all into this project, so seeing my hard work pay off was so surreal.” In her photography work, Catherine particularly enjoyed getting to know each of her clients during her photoshoots with them. It kept Catherine very busy; to the point where she felt like a “40 year old working mom, but I totally loved the whole experience.” She was busiest on the weekends, when she had 4-5 photoshoots each day. In addition to that, after school on weekdays was usually fully booked as well!

In regards to her future, Catherine has a few goals and dreams. She is still planning on taking her gap year to travel and explore. She will be hearing back from the colleges she applied to soon and will be attending one of them in the fall of 2017 after her gap year is complete. Her career projections for herself include “two media related dream jobs: to be a movie producer like Steven Spielberg or Brian Grazer, or to be an environmental/ anthropogenic documentary producer for National Geographic. When I was at The Island School, I really discovered my interest for environmental advocacy media and can totally envision myself dedicating the rest of my life to this career… The Hollywood movie producer fantasy is just an aspiration I’ve always dreamed of.” Given her track record of reaching goals, it seems like Catherine is well on her way!

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When asked what Catherine’s favorite moment from her semester was, Catherine replied with a well thought-out answer which is printed in its entirety below: “My favorite moment of my semester definitely had to be finishing the half marathon. Even though I had trained for the past three months with my best friend and running buddy, Greta, it never totally sank in that I could actually run a half marathon. The half marathon symbolized a seemingly unattainable goal, due to my health complications from having cancer at a young age. On our long exercise days before the half marathon, I just remember running on the bridge from CEI to the center of campus and feeling like I was flying. I had never felt so confident in myself before that moment, and I was just in total euphoria. When I finished the real half marathon, I felt the same way… It was a feeling I had never experienced before, something so foreign to me but so special at the same time. From that day on, I have learned to have confidence in myself and my abilities. While that sounds pretty cliche, it is 100% true. Beating cancer made me a survivor, but emotionally hindered my confidence until I went to The Island School. Participating in DECA and winning states made me feel that same euphoria and sense of pride in my achievements as the half marathon did, and I really hope to experience many future moments like these.”

Catherine, best of luck to you as you hear back from colleges and compete in the DECA international competition. All of us at The Island School are rooting for you and hoping to hear about more of your successes!