By Radha Mehta, grade 10
From Aug. 15-16, 70 students attended Harker DECA’s seventh annual Launch event, which is designed to introduce prospective members to DECA and the Harker School’s business, economics and entrepreneurship department. Through detailed lectures, interactive activities, mock competitions, guest speakers and alumni panels, students were given an idea of what this year will look like. Due to the current circumstances, Launch was held over Zoom this year. Because this was the first virtual Launch, the officer team tried to simulate the in-person experience online.
“The Innovation Challenge allows our DECA Launch attendees to design a mini business plan for a product or service that they see a need for in the market. Along with creating an executive summary, groups present their ideas before a panel of alumni judges at the end of DECA Launch,” said Harker DECA co-chief executive officer Lisa Barooah, grade 12. “Since this year DECA Launch was held virtually, we redesigned the activities to be more engaging and more considerate of screen time. We added three icebreaker activities for group bonding and inserted 10-minute breaks into the schedule. Finally, after noticing room for improvement in the groups’ presentations at last year’s launch, our director of technology held a graphic design workshop on day two. Students presented impressive pitches in the Closing Ceremony due to these changes, which I thoroughly enjoyed.”
Early Saturday morning, students joined the Zoom call and viewed a slideshow of images from past conferences while the operations team took attendance. Then, sophomore Rohan Gorti as well as CEO of the 2019-20 school year, Phil Han ‘20, spoke about their past experiences with Harker DECA.
The officers held an icebreaker game for the attendees to get to know their innovation challenge teammates and the officers. Junior Melody Luo, director of writtens, introduced the students to the weekend’s main activity, the Innovation Challenge, before students went into breakout rooms with their teams and assigned officers. With the guidance of an upperclassman mentor, attendees brainstormed product ideas on virtual whiteboards and started working on their executive summaries.
“Despite the unprecedented online format, this year’s Launch was just as memorable, if not more so, as past events, with students embracing each part of the experience with brimming enthusiasm,” Luo said. “As they learned the ins and outs of roleplays with their mentors and collaborated together on their very first executive summary, there was an emerging sense of community that DECA is so known for. Launch is always special to the DECA officer team because it’s our first opportunity to bond with the new members and share with them the thrilling aspects of the competitive season.”
Next, the attendees bonded with their Innovation Challenge teams through an at-home Scavenger Hunt, in which they were asked to complete a DECA Bingo and pitch a random item for 30 seconds, along with other various activities. Through this exercise, students formed a stronger bond with their mentors and teammates. Attendees were then introduced to the several sectors of DECA events through the Cluster Presentations.
The last day of Launch, Juston Glass, business and entrepreneurship teacher and DECA chapter advisor, presented on all of Harker’s business and entrepreneurship programs. Next, sophomore Anika Muddu, director of roleplays, hosted a presentation introducing the attendees to roleplays before senior Bryan Zhang, VP of competitions, hosted a Kahoot! game covering the Business Administration Core exam topics. Afterward, Catherine He, grade 11, director of technology, hosted a graphic design workshop, which further prepared attendees for their Innovation Challenge presentations. Attendees then went back to their breakout session to work on the Innovation Challenge.
The Roleplay Tournament was a key part of Launch and took place on Sunday afternoon. Mentors were assigned to small groups and explained the process and guidelines of a roleplay. Subsequently, students were paired up with judges to present their roleplays.
“Launch was a fun and exciting way to learn more about DECA. I enjoyed with my team on the innovation challenge and competing in the roleplay and I look forward to participating in these events during the school year,” said Olivia Xu, grade 9.
Attendees were given extra time after the Roleplay Tournament for practicing their Innovation Challenge presentations before the parents joined the session for the Alumni Panel and the Closing Ceremony. The students and parents were given the opportunity to ask five alumni – Vignesh Panchanatham ’18, Enya Lu ’19, Lucas Wang ’17, Shania Wang ’19 and Savi Joshi ’15 – questions about how DECA has impacted their high school and college paths, as well as career choices. Afterward, teams pitched their Innovation Challenge ideas to the judges, who graded them on, presentation, innovation and teamwork. Attendees and parents watched a Launch recap video while the judges worked on scoring the teams. Closing speeches from Glass and the CEOs and the award ceremony concluded the weekend.
“Despite it being online, I really enjoyed the DECA launch this year and I can’t wait to attend conferences!” said attendee Sonya Apsey, grade 9.
Harker DECA is excited to welcome all new and returning members and is looking forward to starting the next school year with an exceptional group of future leaders.
“While the event was unprecedented in its delivery format, both the participants and our DECA officer team were very open, receptive and excited to dive right into the program. Students were able to meet new friends, prepare for the upcoming DECA year and finished the weekend with amazing business ideas and pitches. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds for our Harker DECA chapter. Go Eagles!” said Glass.
Students that won awards are as follows (all winners are in grade 9):
1st Place: Ariav Misra
2nd Place: Harshini Chaturvedula
3rd Place: Gordy Sun
Most Feasible: Selina Chen, Desiree Luo, Sonya Apsey, Serena Janny, Nathan Liu, Devin Hawk, Siddhi Jain
Best Presentation: Aniketh Tummala, Sebastian Dionne, Vardaan Ghai, Reza Jalil, Claire Miao, Yoyo Bai, Cynthia Wang
Best Innovation: Meishin Yen, Medha Yarlagadda, Emi Fujimura, Heidi Lu, Sathvik Chundru, Joe Li
Best Overall: Ashwin Kuppahally, Kabir Ramzan, Spencer Mak, Edis Mesic, Tanisha Singh, Mariana Ryder