By Gianna Chan, grade 10, DECA director of communications
Over 50 students traveled to Anaheim in early November for California DECA’s first Fall Leadership Development Conference (FLDC), giving new members a closer look at three DECA industry clusters in a noncompetitive environment. As the students’ first official DECA conference, they learned the basics of the various tracks offered: leadership, hospitality and entrepreneurship, and had the opportunity to listen to leaders in the business world reflect on their entrepreneurial journeys.
“FLDC’s various tracks provided a pathway for students to become familiar with some of DECA’s clusters and demonstrate growth as leaders,” said Bryan Zhang, grade 11, DECA’s director of written events. “With the conference being the students’ first experience pitching their ideas to fellow competitors, FLDC allowed them to master their presentation skills while networking with people across California. Furthermore, the variety of keynote speakers taught the attendees about resilience and personal development through engaging activities and meaningful anecdotes. Overall, I think FLDC was an enriching experience for both seasoned veterans and novices of DECA.”
At the opening session, students were introduced to the conference theme, “Leadership Wins Championships,” and heard keynote speaker Jake Kelfer, author of the bestseller “Elevate Beyond,” discuss his career journey and life lessons.
“FLDC was very well run and gave me many new opportunities to learn from mentors and speakers,” said Lexi Nishimura, grade 9. “During the conference, I also got to bond with my chapter and make new friends in my track group.”
Later, students assembled with their respective tracks for a testing session and an introduction to the field. Through teamwork activities, members met other California DECA members and laid the groundwork for their final presentation with their groups.
On Saturday morning, attendees gathered for the morning session, where speaker Scott Mathie, founder of Nix Your Limits, talked about Walt Disney’s leadership and creative problem-solving skills. Then, the students transferred into their track groups to learn key concepts for their respective clusters and begin working on their final presentations.
The entrepreneurship track brainstormed ideas for a business proposal, while the leadership and hospitality tracks learned basic terminologies and leadership styles. Students then went out to lunch in Anaheim before reconvening in the afternoon to polish and practice their presentations.
“As the first conference of the year, FLDC was an incredible experience for kids to learn about DECA,” said Mahi Kolla, grade 12, co-chief executive officer of Harker DECA. “The conference provided students a great introduction to the different clusters, especially as each track was based on a competitive event that DECA offers. Our members’ creative presentations impressed me and showed how many highly skilled future DECA competitors and emerging leaders are within our chapter.
“The keynote speakers were also some of the best I’ve seen so far and gave attendees invaluable advice on leadership and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the conference allowed our members to bond with each other, and I think the balance between fun and learning created an amazing first DECA experience for our chapter,” Kolla added.