By Elaine Zhai, grade 10, Harker DECA Director of Communications
In mid-November, almost 50 students from the Harker DECA chapter flew to Anaheim for the DECA Western Region Leadership Conference (WRLC). Marking the beginning of the 2018-19 competitive season, this event was Harker DECA’s second time attending WRLC, a non-competitive conference designed to provide students with competitive tips. Through workshops and keynote speakers, students bonded with one another and developed skills to prepare themselves for their next conference.
“This year’s WRLC was a really great experience that had a good balance between being fun and also informative,” said Shania Wang, grade 12, Harker DECA CEO. “I felt that the workshops and speakers had really important messages and was able to learn from each of them, and the competitive aspect was also super helpful in terms of introducing members to competitions. At the same time, being in Anaheim and having chapter time really allowed our chapter to come together and get closer while forming lasting memories. As a whole, even being a senior, I definitely feel that it was an overall well-done conference that had a lot to offer to everyone.”
Members staging in the conference are as follows:
Competitive Event Testing Session
- Claire Luo, grade 10
- Shania Wang, grade 12
- Ronit Gagneja, grade 11
- Riya Gupta, grade 12
- Riya Gupta, grade 12
- Shania Wang, grade 12
- Yejin Song, grade 9
- Mahi Kolla, grade 11
DECA Garage Top 3 Finalists
- William Chien, grade 9
- Shrey Khater, grade 9
- Vinay Sudarsanam, grade 9
Students opened the visit by preparing for the introductory workshops that afternoon, which included an alumni story session, DECA Competition 101 and a Tell Your Story workshop. Attendees were then given the rest of the afternoon to participate in the Competitive Event Testing Session and grab dinner before the opening session.
In the opening session, DECA members from throughout the Western Region, including California, Arizona and Washington, assembled to hear the keynote speakers share their stories of success.
On Friday, the chapter gathered to attend the general session and listen to speakers share insightful lessons they have learned throughout their professional careers. Students were given the opportunity to engage with experts in various fields, and left feeling inspired and encouraged to pursue their own dreams. Creating a perfect environment to network with students from other states, these educational and interactive workshops served as learning experiences for the chapter.
“As a first-year DECA member, the workshops provided a more fun and interactive way of learning about the DECA experience,” said Tuhin Chatterjee, grade 10. “I’ve definitely gained a variety of skills, and I look forward to applying them in future conferences.”
After a busy day of workshops, students were able to unwind and spend time bonding with one another and enjoying the attractions of Disneyland.
On Saturday, all members of the chapter participated in the DECA competitive events. In round one, where they competed against other students in a role-play tournament, judges were able to give students feedback and constructive criticism on their performance to prepare them for future competitions.
“The role-play mock competition was overall an incredible learning experience for the students,” said Claire Luo, grade 10, Harker DECA director of role-plays. “For many of the attendees, this was their first role-play in an actual conference setting, and it gave them a great taste of what to expect. In particular, they got to do the role-play in front of an actual judge, which was a new and eye-opening experience for many of the members. The role-play itself was also really interesting and allowed the students to come up with all sorts of creative marketing ideas and plans. In all, I thought that the mock role-play competition benefited the students a lot, especially as they prepare for their next conference.”
Throughout the morning, students also visited The Hub to support fellow members of the Harker DECA chapter, Phil Han, grade 11, vice president of competition; Anay Karwal, grade 11, director of technology; and Enya Lu, grade 12, vice president of California DECA, in the DECA Fashion Show. Furthermore, William Chien, Vinay Sudarsanam and Shrey Khater, all grade 9, participated in the DECA Garage Pitches and placed in the top three among teams from across the nation.
Then, students attended another set of workshops, which covered various topics including creative storytelling and public speaking. Again, these workshops provided a unique experience for new members, who could not only socialize with other like-minded students but also develop and hone useful life skills.
On Saturday evening, members of Harker DECA gathered for a quick excursion at BowlMor Lanes in Anaheim. For two hours, students were able to relax and compete with one another while snacking on mozzarella sticks and buffalo wings.
“Chapter bowling was a really fun experience because I got to take some time out of the trip to relax, interact, and have fun with my roommates and talk more to the other chapter members,” said Alysa Su, grade 9. “It’s a great way to connect with some people you might not have known before and a great bonding experience for the entire chapter.”
Students finally convened for the closing session. While there, students watched as Chien, Sundarsanam and Khater represented Harker DECA in the DECA Garage Shark Tank Panel Pitches, presenting their proposal in front of a panel of judges and hundreds of students. Students also experienced a performance by Brian Nhira, a former contestant on The Voice, and after the closing session, members gathered to take a chapter photo and pose with Nhira.
“DECA Garage was a great experience overall,” said Chien. “In the beginning, we were introduced to Jason Lucash, the founder of Origaudio, who has appeared on Shark Tank. They then let us start working on making our company and developing our pitch. After that, we had to do a form of crowdfunding where every student was given DECA Dollars, and we had to convince them to invest in us. Our company raised enough money to be in the top three, giving us the opportunity to present in front of five sharks and the 1,500 people attending the conference. In the end, we didn’t win but it was still the highlight of my DECA career so far. Huge thanks go out to everyone in Harker DECA, the officers and my teammates, as none of what happened would have been possible without them.”
Overall, Harker DECA’s experience at WRLC was definitely a learning one, where students were able to network with students from across the nation and develop the critical skills to aid them in becoming competitively successful in the future. The chapter looks forward to applying their newfound knowledge to the first competitive conference of the 2018-19 season, the Silicon Valley Career Development Conference. Go Eagles!
About The Harker School DECA
Harker DECA is an international competitive business organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in four fields of business: marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. Our DECA chapter integrates classroom instruction, applies learning, connects to business and promotes competition in order to prepare the next generation to be academically prepared, community oriented, professionally responsible and experienced leaders.