By Gianna Chan, grade 10
Last weekend, 55 students attended Harker DECA’s sixth annual Launch event, which introduced prospective members to DECA and the Harker School’s business and entrepreneurship department. Students were given an overview of the upcoming DECA competitive season through alumni panels, detailed lectures, guest speakers, mock competitions and interactive activities.
“In my opinion, the Innovation Challenge, which we revamped the last competitive season, now provides a perfect opportunity for our new members to become familiarized with the writing of an introductory business plan, which is one of the key aspects of competition at DECA conferences,” said Harker DECA co-CEO Phil Han, grade 12. “The biggest way in which DECA Launch improved from last year is definitely the increased amount of time that we are allocating towards the Innovation Challenge. I’m very excited to see what the new members will come up with this year!”
On Saturday morning, attendees met the chapter advisors and officers in the Nichols Hall atrium, while enjoying breakfast from Noah’s Bagels. They then went into the auditorium for the Student Opening Ceremony, where California DECA president Elisa Zhang and former Harker DECA vice president of public relations Riya Gupta ’19 shared how DECA impacted their high school experiences and sparked their passions for business and entrepreneurship.
Afterward, the officers held an ice-breaker game of competitive rock, paper, scissors before Bryan Zhang, grade 11, the director of written events, introduced the Innovation Challenge. Students divided themselves into teams of six, and throughout the weekend, each group, under the guidance of a mentor, brainstormed and developed a product or idea relating to this year’s theme of sustainability to present at the closing ceremony.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole mentoring process and the opportunity to bond with the grade below me. It was rewarding to be involved with the operations side of this event and be able to recreate the eye-opening experience that I had the year before for a whole new group of students,” said Alivia Li, grade 10, director of roleplays. “I think that Launch provides a unique setting for students to meet upperclassmen and gain exposure to the high school while still learning about DECA’s purpose. These students have a bright future ahead of them, and I’m excited to observe their growth during the next school year.”
Next, the attendees bonded with their Innovation Challenge teams through a Scavenger Hunt, in which they were asked to follow a list of riddles to find the Harker DECA officers, who were located around campus. The exercise allowed them to explore the upper school campus and strengthen their friendships with their teammates.
The students enjoyed pizza from Pizza My Heart for lunch while working on their innovation plans and, in the afternoon, officers gave short presentations introducing the different competitive clusters: business management and administration, marketing, hospitality and tourism, finance, and entrepreneurship.
On Sunday morning, the students briefly worked on their Innovation Challenge ideas. Then Harker student Mahi Kolla, grade 12, founder of The Minty Boutique and co-CEO of Harker DECA, shared her own experiences with creating her company through the Harker Incubator program. Afterward, Juston Glass, chapter advisor, presented on Harker’s various business, economics and entrepreneurship programs. After a live roleplay demonstration by Li, Zhang hosted a Kahoot! (a live game collaboration site) covering the business administration core exam topics. Next, the competitions team introduced the various competitive events, followed by a graphic design workshop by Kolla. Then, students practiced their Innovation Challenge presentations while enjoying burritos.
“DECA seems like an amazing opportunity to gain skills and knowledge which will help me in the future and, most importantly, in the real world,” said Grant Sims, grade 9.
One of the focal points of the launch was the roleplay tournament, which occurred on Sunday afternoon. Mentors acquainted students with the expectations and the process of competing in roleplays, and students then paired up and competed in their first competitive event by preparing and presenting a hospitality roleplay to the judges.
Following the roleplay tournament, attendees were given extra time to practice their presentations for the Innovation Challenge before parents arrived for dinner, the alumni panel and the closing ceremony. Students and parents had the opportunity to ask seven alumni, Chirag Aswani ’15, Riya Chandra ’17, Ankur Karwal ’16, Sidhart Krishnamurthi ’15, Gaurav Kumar ’14, Haley Tran ’17 and Lucas Wang ’17, questions about DECA’s impact on their high school and college experiences, as well as their current careers.
Next, teams pitched their Innovation Challenge ideas to the judges, who scored each team on feasibility, presentation, innovation and teamwork. While the judges discussed the final scores, the students and parents watched a recap video of the weekend. Finally, Launch ended with the announcement of the Roleplay Tournament and Innovation Challenge winners, as well as closing speeches from Glass, Han and Kolla.
“As a new student, DECA Launch really helped me make new friends and feel more welcome to the Harker community,” said attendee Sara Wan, grade 9.
Harker DECA is looking forward to welcoming all the new and returning members and is excited to begin the upcoming school year with an extraordinary community of future leaders.
“I was extremely impressed by this year’s Launch attendees and cannot wait to see them grow during the competitive season,” said Glass.
Results of the competition are below. All students named are grade 9.
First Place: Rahul Mulpuri, Ethan Wong
Second Place: Zain Vakath, Rohan Gorti
Thirsd Place: Zeke Weng, Armaan Thakker
Most Feasible: Matthew Lau, Rohan Bhowmik , Kyle Chang, Raj Kalra, John Cracraft, Alex Lan
Best Presentation: BB Ajlouny, Jonathan Mo, Grant Sims, Robert Zhang, Smrithi Sambamurthy, Pelin Unsal
Best Innovation: Ada Praun-Petrovic, Natalie Gergov, Gary Ding, Richard Zhang, Anthony Zhao, Aneesha Asthana
Best Teamwork: Eileen Ma, Drake Piscione, Indigo Lee, Radha Mehta, Namrata Karra, Sukrit Kalsi
Best Overall: Rohan Kondapalli, Abhi Namala, Vishnu Veeravalli, Gwen-Zoe Yang, Sonya He, Amrita Pasupathy
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
Gianna Chan is the communications director for Harker DECA.