This article was originally published in the winter 2013 Harker Quarterly.
At the core of Silicon Valley startups is the idea of rapid expansion. This rapid-growth philosophy has been taken to heart by Harker’s new business and entrepreneurship department. The department is already flourishing with business classes, a podcast series, stewardship of Harker’s TedX program and its thriving DECA chapter.
Harker’s chapter is one of 3,500 DECA organizations that educate young leaders and entrepreneurs on marketing, finance, hospitality and management. (Formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America, the organization adopted the acronym as its full name when it became an international body.)
November is DECA month; chapters around the world are promoting the club and preparing its members for competition season. Harker’s DECA chapter is no exception, with students kicking off the school year at a fever pitch. One of their primary goals is maximizing the chapter’s visibility on campus. The chapter has gone from six members in 2009 to125 in 2012 and is looking to continue that impressive growth streak. Chapter vice president Ariana Shulman, grade 12, says, “I am looking forward to seeing the underclassmen get excited and involved in the DECA chapter this year.”
To publicize the chapter, DECA has organized numerous events, the first of which was an ice cream social to kick off DECA month. On Nov. 1, students flocked to the event to enjoy sundaes and learn about the chapter. Shannon Hong, grade 10, public relations officer for freshmen and juniors, said, “It was a great way to let over 200 students have fun while getting to know DECA.”
The chapter is using more than just frozen treats to inform the community about its activities. DECA participated in Harker’s student club fair, showcasing its events and highlighting what the students would learn over the course of the school year. The chapter even put on its own competitive events fair to discuss its upcoming competitions and events.
DECA is making sure to keep parents informed about what their students are up to through frequent press releases and events, including a Nov. 9 DECA parents night. More than 150 parents attended the event in the Nichols Hall atrium, where they learned about the chapter’s upcoming competitive schedule. Club president Monica Thukral, grade 12, said the parents visited event-specific booths to learn “how they could be involved as parents and what their students would be doing at each event.”
DECA also is participating in The Stock Market Game, a nationwide stock market competition. The SMG gives teams a virtual $100,000 to invest and measures their returns in real time. More than 130 Harker students and faculty are participating, which has led to a good-natured competition between the student and faculty participants. At press time, two student groups were ranked third and sixth in the Western region, out of approximately 1,200 teams; they are ninth and 17th nationally. The top 25 teams in the region will present their investment strategies to fellow attendees at a conference in May.
To further enhance learning, three investment speakers will visit Harker during the semester to discuss their stock market strategies and successes. On Oct. 30 Rajeev Seth kicked off the series by sharing his strategies for navigating the stock market. Seth is a leader in financial services who has worked with asset managers and hedge funds, and recently served as senior vice president at Bank of America.
Contributing to the community is a key part of DECA’s charter and, in that spirit, the chapter already has launched two efforts this year. On Nov. 6 DECA worked with the Red Cross Club to assemble 100 emergency preparedness kits during a lunch period. The kits, containing toothbrushes, hand sanitizer and other emergency essentials, were donated to those in need.
The DECA chapter also has partnered with the student council to help recycle Capri Sun containers at the end of every lunch period. Large banners on the wall of the Edge implore students not to throw the estimated 400 containers a day in the garbage, but instead recycle them to help promote a green Harker campus.
Meanwhile, the business and entrepreneurship department (BE), which is in its infancy, has hit the ground running. Juston Glass, the department’s advisor, says the goal for the program is “to connect the students with the outside business world” and eventually “be the most comprehensive business program at the high school level.”
One of the ways the program is connecting its students with the real business world is through its podcast series. Over the course of the school year, local business leaders will be interviewed and share their knowledge with the burgeoning entrepreneurs in the program. The first guest, Satish Dharmaraj, is a partner at Redpoint Ventures and was the CEO and cofounder of Zimbra. The program’s host, Glenn Reddy, grade 11, said, “It’s been great that I’ve been able to connect at a more personal level with these entrepreneurs and the podcast will give … watchers a lot of great information.”
The BE classes also are giving students practical experience on how to run a business through the Finish Line Challenge, put on by the athletic apparel retailer. During the Finish Line Challenge, future business leaders tackle real business problems. Students are asked to help design a more interactive, and ultimately more profitable, customer experience in Finish Line stores by using market research to evaluate and give suggestions to improve the retailer’s omnichannel strategy. To give real-world perspective on their solutions, Glass arranged for two guest speakers: a store manager with five years of firsthand experience and the Northern California district manager.
The store manager provided the students with insight into how new employees are trained to engage customers and gave them an inside look into store operations. After the session, the classes broke into groups and pitched their improvement ideas to the manager. The winning groups from each period were guaranteed interviews for a seasonal job at Finish Line. Ones of the winners, Scott Song, grade 9, said, “The best part of the Finish Line visit was learning the ins and outs as a manager of a store.”
Neither the DECA chapter nor the BE program show any signs of slowing down, with further investment discussions in late November and early December and more podcasts being recorded. DECA president Thukral was particularly excited for the Harker DECA fundraising outing to the premiere of the second “Hunger Games” movie on Nov. 22, calling it “an event for the whole school and a bonding event for DECA.” The Harker community can look forward to a packed calendar full of informative and entertaining events – and hopefully more ice cream.