Part Of The Pack

Senior Embraces, Expands Communities Found at Cedar Park


Trophy in hand, senior Ethne Barnes wins first place at DECA’s international competition. Barnes got highly involved in many of the communities at Cedar Park after transferring from a small private school as a freshman, she has now spent four years giving back to them. “My favorite thing about DECA is the people,” Barnes said. “I want people to feel as excited about DECA as I did that first day. So it was really important to me that our chapter grow and expand to get even more people within the school talking about DECA. Our chapter has achieved some pretty great things and I think we deserve recognition for it, every club at this school does.”

Paisley Schalles, Guest Reporter

Think back to age four, lost in Costco, frantically searching for your mom while crowds of strangers quickly pass around you. That’s how senior Ethne Barnes describes her first day at Cedar Park.

“In eighth grade I had gone to a very small private school,” Barnes said. “There was only 16 people in the class. So going into Cedar Park my freshman year, with 500 people being in my class, was just really overwhelming for me.”

Barnes was born in El Paso and moved to Kansas when she was six, after her dad retired from active military duty. She returned to Texas just before her eighth grade year and attended Sterling Classical Academy. The public school system has a notorious reputation that Barnes said it lived up to on the first day of her freshman year. 

“My first experience at Cedar Park was when I walked into the courtyard to go to the cafeteria and get my schedule,” Barnes said. “The kid in front of me tripped on the stairs and said the F word. My private Christian school brain just about imploded. Up to that point, I had only ever been homeschooled or gone to a private Christian school, so I had never even heard that word. I mean I’d read it in books, but I’d never heard someone say it out loud.” 

A larger campus with more students also came with a greater amount of opportunities and extracurriculars. 

 “There was just so many people and there was so much to do,” Barnes said. “And I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, the whole thing left me pretty discouraged.”

Barnes enrolled in Introduction to Business Marketing and Finance, where she started to break out of her shell and discover her love for business. 

“I loved Coach Luke’s class because it was the only class where I was actually outgoing,” Barnes said. “I felt like I could actually be myself and the person I wanted to be. In the rest of my classes, I was really quiet and reserved, just because I was scared of people’s judgment. But in Coach Luke’s class, I didn’t feel that fear.”

It was this class that pushed her to get involved with DECA, an international business organization with high school chapters across the globe.

“That first year in DECA was quite interesting,” Barnes said. “When I walked into my first meeting I saw my one friend from class and I thought, ‘perfect we’re going to be best friends.’ Paisley [Schalles] and I became competition partners and then we took on an unofficial officer role and started being prepared for leadership roles by Mrs. Stapleton.”

Her visible excitement and dedication to the club caught the attention of Business teacher and DECA advisor Kimberly Stapleton, who says her first impression of Barnes was pure energy. 

“She had so much energy and passion behind making DECA better,” Stapleton said. “Seeing them so willing to jump in, absorb everything and give back to make it better made me think, these are going to be leaders for sure.”

The community Barnes found in DECA made adjusting to a new school easier, but it was still very different from her time at Sterling. Joining the Fellowship of Christian Athletes gave her a more familiar school atmosphere. 

“FCA is a really great community of support for believers at the school,” Barnes said. “It’s a place to come together and be with like minded people, being encouraged by their walks with Christ. It’s all about creating a community of support and encouragement every week that people can go back to time and time again.”

These organizations didn’t just give Barnes a community to be a part of, they gave her the confidence to be bold and improve those communities for other students, she said. Barnes has now served two terms as President of DECA, one term as Co President of FCA and has been a baseball team manager for three years. 

“Cedar Park baseball puts a lot of emphasis on the idea of ‘Mudita,’ which essentially means finding joy in and supporting the success of others,” Barnes said. “I really resonate with this concept, and have sought to embody it through each of my activities, trying to find ways to support the success of others within my community and find joy in it.”

With Barnes’s help, Cedar Park’s DECA chapter tripled in size between 2019 and 2023, earning multiple DECA awards, such as state recognition for chapter growth. 

“My favorite thing about DECA is the people,” Barnes said. “I want people to feel as excited about DECA as I did that first day. So it was really important to me that our chapter grow and expand to get even more people within the school talking about DECA. Our chapter has achieved some pretty great things and I think we deserve recognition for it, every club at this school does.”

One of those great accomplishments was achieved by Barnes and her teammates, seniors Claire Poulter and Paisley Schalles, when they placed first at DECA’s international competition in an Integrated Marketing Campaign event. 

“Standing on stage at ICDC and hearing my name called for first place was truly the most surreal moment of my life,” Barnes said. “It made me think back to sitting in Mrs. Stapleton’s classroom at that first meeting freshman year, looking at the pictures of past ICDC winners on the DECA website. Now, after four years of hard work and immense personal growth, I was one of those winners, and I new freshman me would be so proud”

Like the organizations she’s a part of, Stapleton said Barnes has grown into an impressive version of herself over the past four years. 

“She has so much more confidence and a lot more ability to be outspoken,” Stapleton said. “She’s worked so hard and has made the work personal, not only to push herself personally for success, but the chapter as a whole. I think that was there as a freshman, but over the years it’s truly developed into what DECA symbolizes, the mission to develop leaders and entrepreneurs.” 

Though her time at Cedar Park is coming to an end, Barnes says she will remember the things she learned here during the next chapter of her life, majoring in business honors at Texas A&M.

“I am over-the-moon excited to be going to A&M this fall,” Barnes said. “I was accepted into their Business Honors Program, and I’m really looking forward to not only becoming a part of that community, but getting plugged into other organizations across campus as well. The thing I love the most about A&M is the culture and community that I felt when I visited the first time, and I cannot wait to be the loudest, proudest member of the fighting Texas Aggies.”