This article originally appeared in the winter 2015 Harker Quarterly.
On Oct. 17, 220 students participated in TEDxHarkerSchool, an innovative youth-only conference that “featured nine amazing speakers, 10 interactive booths and 30 inspirational mentors,” said Shannon Hong, grade 12, who helped organize the event.
“Our mission is to promote ideas worth sharing – social equality, astronomy, politics, genetics and much more,” she added. “We fully believe that youth can be the ones who change the world, and we hope to enable revolutionary thinking within our community. This year, we had an amazing speaker lineup,” including Stanford geneticist Michael Snyder; youth activist Helen Kassa; international property lawyer Neel Chatterjee; Kelly Sawyers, senior campaigner at Change. org; Leila Janah, social entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Sama Group; Raja GuhaThakurta, profes- sor of astronomy at the University of California, Santa Cruz; writer and Harker senior Kaity Gee; DoorDash CTO Andy Fang ’10; and upper school chemistry teacher Smriti Koodanjeri.
Innovative companies hosting booths included the makers of Nod, a virtual reality device, and Puzzlebox Orbit, a mind-controlled drone. “Moreover, 28 industry professionals joined us for a mentorship luncheon in which stu- dents in groups of five or six ate with a mentor of their choice. We hope to inspire students to pursue their dreams and share important ideas,” Hong said.
TEDxHarkerSchool team members are Hong and fellow seniors Aashika Balaji and John Jerney; juniors Aditya Dhar, Srivatsav Pyda, Rahul Shukla and Peter Wu; and sophomores Emily Chen, Dolan Dworak, Kaitlin Hsu, Neelesh Ramachandran and Anooshree Sengupta.
In early October, the CareerConnect program hosted a LinkedIn profile workshop at the upper school campus. Students and faculty were invited to learn more about creating effective profiles from LinkedIn employees James Gatenby, manager of Web development, and Asha Chandrashekaran, senior software test engineer. Students without an existing account were taught how to create one, while current users were shown what materials they should add while still high school students.
A few weeks later, in early November, 13 students from CareerConnect attended the QuickBooks Connect 2015 Conference at the San Jose Convention Center, where they participated in a session called “21 Principles of Persuasion” by Jason Nazar, tech entrepreneur and a current contributor to Forbes and Business Insider as well as the CEO of Docstoc.com. With 21 key steps, Nazar introduced persuasion skills that can be used in high profile negotiations as well as in everyday life.
Students were free to explore different booths from a variety of startups, where the exhibitors offered free merchandise and shared their stories of entrepreneurism with students.
Following the Nazar workshop, students headed to the main stage for two impressive keynote addresses: Brian Grazer and Oprah Winfrey. Grazer, an Academy Award-winning producer and co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, opened the session with his story of success.
“He emphasized perseverance and gave an anecdote of how he made it a mission to always reach out and connect with new people,” said Lucas Wang, grade 11. “Oprah Winfrey then took the stage and gave a speech on intention, stating, ‘It’s the energy of the intention that is going to come back to you, because intention is everything.’ Students … need to understand why they’re doing something and what they hope to achieve,” Wang added.
“Overall the attending students got a glimpse in on the entrepreneurial scene in the valley as well as learning new key skills in persuasion,” continued Wang. “The lessons taught by Grazer and Winfrey provided life skills and advice to the students that can apply to everything.”
Harker Podcast Network
The B.E. podcasters launched a new series in September called the “Explained Series.” Recently released episodes include “Venture Capital: Explained with Dharmesh Thakker,” general partner at Battery Ventures; “Digital Health: Explained with Dr. Sangeeta Aggarwal,” of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center; and “Car Dealerships: Explained with Jeremy Beaver,” of the Del Grande Dealer Group.
Along with tuning up members’ business sense, DECA reaches out to help various organizations, and members were busy this fall!
In late October, 11 Harker DECA members participated in the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Muscle Walk. There were multiple booths where participants could make arts and crafts to raise money for MDA. Additionally, there were speakers who told their stories about battling muscular dystrophy. Alexis Gauba, grade 11, said, “It was valuable to understand more about the disease and how we can help support the cause.”
A few weeks later, Harker’s DECA crew threw an ice cream social outside of Manzanita Hall. The team of officers set up a table where they laid out ice cream and multiple toppings. Sanil Rajput, grade 12, said, “The ice cream social is always a great event as it gets everyone in the Harker community excited for DECA, regardless of whether they’re in the club or not.” The idea behind this event was to bring the Harker community together in a fun and informal way with tasty ice cream and fun music, and get members excited for the upcoming DECA season.
That same week, the group held its second annual mock conference to help improve competitive results and prepare new members for the upcoming DECA season. Members interested in improving testing and role-playing skills arrived at the B.E. classroom – the Innovation Center – on a Saturday, took tests and practiced the role-playing that takes place in actual competitions. Shreyas Chandrashekaran, grade 10 and director of role-plays, noted, “The mock conference was a great start to the competitive season, and really helped our members gure out what they need to improve on to be successful this year.”
In mid-November, DECA held its most popular event of the month: a school- wide capture-the-flag game. Partnering with Harker Spirit, Harker DECA turned this chapter event into a class competition. Sophomores took on seniors, while freshmen battled juniors. Juniors took the top slot followed by seniors, sophomores and freshmen.
“Capture-the-flag was a great success which really got the whole Harker community together and excited for a fun event,” said Logan Drazovich, grade 12, Harker DECA’s vice president of public relations. “It has definitely been the most-enjoyed chapter campaign for DECA Month so far.”
Just prior to the Thanksgiving break, DECA held another MDA fundraiser, Hoops and Scoops, at which faculty played a DECA team in an enthusiastic basketball game while other DECA members sold ice cream and toppings outside. The group raised about $350 in that effort.