This article was originally published in the spring 2013 Harker Quarterly.
Entrepreneurship is nothing new to Harker students and now the school will draw together existing activities and new pieces to launch an academic Business and Entrepreneurial Program (BEP) in the fall.
Current elements, including the business club and its DECA participation, and Harker’s TEDx conferences will be laced together with new elements to make a complete program.
“We are ready to take our current elements of business and entrepreneurial opportunities for our students to the programmatic level,” said Chris Nikoloff, head of school. “The current elements of DECA, TEDx, career panels and other special opportunities will be assembled into a comprehensive program that will give students direct business and entrepreneurial training, experience and opportunities appropriate to the high school level. We want to leverage our location and contacts in Silicon Valley to create unique learning opportunities and experiences for students interested in these areas.”
The upper school’s Harker Business Club (HBC) participates each year in DECA events, and that effort will be rolled into the program. A new not-for-credit DECA class is being added that will teach future leaders and entrepreneurs ethics, leadership skills and expertise in business- related fields, and students will prepare business plans for DECA competitions.
Michaela Kastelman, grade 12, wound up her term as DECA Silicon Valley president in March and Sophia Luo, grade 9, ascended to a new role at DECA Silicon Valley as secretary and treasurer for the next year.
“I am very excited that Harker is starting a business and entrepreneurship program!” said Kastelman. “Many students are very interested in learning about business and entrepreneurship and I think that it will be a great opportunity for Harker students to gain pre-professional education and experience. Several current and past Harker students have already created and developed their own startups and I think that a business and entrepreneurship program will further support Harker students’ entrepreneurial spirit and interest.”
The DECA annual state competition was in March and more than 20 students qualified for and are attending the international conference in April.
DECA, which used to stand for Distributive Education Clubs of America, but is now the actual name of the program, is an international association of high school and college students, and teachers of marketing, management and entrepreneurship. The group works to prepare leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in business, finance, hospitality and marketing. Harker has had a business club for several years and 77 members attended the Silicon Valley Career Development Conference hosted by the California association of DECA in San Jose in January. Harker students won 14 trophies and several medals, with Harker teams and individuals earning eight top- three finishes. Nikoloff was one of the many judges at the event.
“Through my involvement in HBC and DECA, I’ve learned key life and business skills that I will carry with me through college and life,” said Kastelman. “I’ve particularly grown through my officer positions, which have helped me develop as a leader and team member. From arranging conferences for 800 people to helping other schools to start and develop their own DECA chapters, I’ve learned how to inspire a shared vision and foster community, which I think will be important skills for college and my future career.
“I’ve also developed my critical thinking, public thinking and time management skills through DECA and HBC, which will greatly benefit me during college,” continued Kastelman. “This program could help students discover their interest in business and entrepreneurship and … I think that (participating) Harker students will get a jump start into entering the Silicon Valley startup community as they will be able to gain essential business related skills.”
The club will now be an adjunct to the overall program. “We will be offering a DECA class, formerly only a club activity, as an extra period option for the upper school students,” said Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs.
Almost 200 high school students came to Harker in October 2011 for the first-ever independently organized TEDxHarkerSchool event, headlined by keynote speaker Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist at Apple in the ’80s. The event featured five top entrepreneurs, each offering unique perspectives and advice to the young audience. The TEDx committee is in full swing planning the next TEDx conference at Harker for April 27. Speakers are still being lined up, but the group had, by March 1, contacted its first round of potential speakers and outlined a comprehensive campaign to attract students from other high schools and colleges.
Marketing director for this year’s TEDx, Glenn Reddy, grade 10, noted, “As a student interested in going into business later in life, I am very excited about the new Business and Entrepreneurial Program. In the past, business-oriented students have had few course options in their field, but now that will change. Being a part of a larger program will help us expand the TEDxHarkerSchool event to involve more students.”
Initiating the BEP in the fall of 2013 is contingent upon finding the right person to chair the new department, said Nikoloff, and he is consulting with some of the many entrepreneurs in the Harker community to identify candidates.
Meanwhile, Kastelman is excited – and maybe a bit jealous – that the program is in the works. “I can’t wait to see how the program develops!” she said. “I really wish that this program had existed when I was a freshman; I would have definitely chosen to participate in it, and I think this will help Harker students to become even more well-rounded and amazing. The skills that will be taught and learned through the BEP could be applied to any of the other extracurricular activities that Harker offers. For example, a highly involved theater student could participate in the program and learn to start his or her own theater company. I’m really excited to hear that Harker is expanding its educational program.”