By Elaine Zhai, Harker DECA Director of Communications
The Harker DECA chapter traveled to Orlando, Fla., in late April to attend the 2019 International Career Development Conference (ICDC), where participants faced competitors from all around the world. ICDC this year consisted of difficult competitions and memorable experiences, and Harker DECA performed exceptionally, with eight teams staging in their event during the preliminary round and six teams advancing as finalists. Three teams placed in the top 10, with one team taking first.
Finalists are as follows:
- Phil Han and Evan Cheng, both grade 11; Travel and Tourism Team Decision Making
Top 10 Finalists
- Claire Luo, grade 10, Business Finance Series, and Thomas Rainow, grade 11, Automotive Services Marketing
Top 20 Finalists
- Mahi Kolla, grade 11, Entrepreneurship Individual Series, and Rishi Dange, grade 11, Financial Consulting Event
- Ronit Gagneja, grade 11, Automotive Services Marketing
- Naveen Mirapuri, grade 11, Business Services Marketing
- Pranav Varmaraja, grade 9, Principles of Business Management and Administration
Upon arrival in Orlando, students had the opportunity to converse with members of DECA Japan during dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy before returning to the hotel and relaxing after a long day of travel.
“It was really cool to meet with DECA Japan and learn about their perspective on DECA, especially with this being their first year competing at ICDC,” said Luo, Harker DECA vice president of operations and top 10 finalist in the Business Finance Series. “We talked about what we had in common, such as the books and the shows that we liked, and it was unique to be able to interact with them and share our experiences with each other.”
On Saturday, the chapter participated in the DECA 5K run at the West Concourse to raise money and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Participants had the opportunity to meet and network with other competitors from California. For the rest of the afternoon, some students enjoyed the attractions of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park while others relaxed and prepared for their competitive event. At night, Harker DECA attended the Grand Opening Session, joining over 22,000 other participants from around the world. Featured in this session was key-note speaker Ben Nemtin, producer and star of “The Buried Life” and author of “What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?”
“Just being able to witness 22,000 people in one room moving as a unit or like a colony of ants was awe-inspiring,” said Andrea Thia, grade 9. “Interacting with various countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia, and communicating with young entrepreneurs and industry professionals in the exhibit halls were once-in-a-lifetime experiences I will never forget.”
On Sunday, members attended their event briefing and took their written examinations throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Then students and chaperones were given the rest of the day to relax, prepare for the competitions ahead, and catch up on some homework. To end the day, Harker DECA assembled for a chapter dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.
Monday, students attended their competitive event preliminary competition. Throughout the day, all participants also had access to the exhibit hall booths, which included exhibits from various business colleges and corporations, serving as a great chance for Harker DECA to meet and network with other participants. Visitors received beneficial information about various professional opportunities and merchandise to keep as souvenirs. Additionally, those who were campaigning for a position on the 2019-20 Executive DECA team also set up booths and presentations. Afterward, students and chaperones spent the evening at Universal Studios.
With Tuesday being the last full day of ICDC, students and chaperones convened for the Achievement Awards Session to find out whether they had advanced to the final round of competitions, which would take place later that afternoon. After top participants for presentations, career cluster exams and overall performers were acknowledged and praised, the top 20 teams that would continue competing were announced for each event.
With eight teams recognized on stage and six teams headed to the final round, Harker DECA performed incredibly, supporting these finalists with pride. The rest of the chapter had the afternoon to themselves and had the option to finish some homework or visit the Epcot Theme Park. Later that evening, Harker DECA prepared for the Grand Awards Session and, as the top 10 finalists were called onto the stage, proudly sent three teams. With Travel and Tourism Team Decision Making being the last event that was announced, Harker DECA gathered in support of Han and Cheng, who won first place. Members celebrated with a quick chapter photo before heading off to meet California DECA for the State Dinner, where the top participants were again celebrated and recognized for their accomplishments at ICDC.
“These past three years, I’ve been searching for validation through DECA,” said Han, Harker DECA co-CEO. “Because it was my dream for so long, when it actually happened what I felt was almost indescribable. I was suddenly hit with a flurry of emotions, awe, overwhelming joy and pride. But most importantly was a resonating gratitude for everyone who supported me and of course, my partner, Evan.”
With many new experiences and opportunities, ICDC 2019 was definitely memorable for all of its participants and served as a fantastic way to close the 2018-19 competitive season.
“This year’s ICDC was a fantastic experience for students and chaperones and definitely helped the chapter become closer,” said Kolla, Harker DECA co-CEO. “Many members were able to stage for their event, which was a reflection of the dedication and hard work that they put into DECA from the very first study session all the way up until the final moments before their competition. It was absolutely amazing to see everyone so supportive of each other, and this ICDC served as a competitively shaping experience for the chapter.”
“I was extremely proud of how our students did this year at ICDC and throughout the 2018-19 competitive season,” said Juston Glass, Harker DECA advisor. “It was amazing seeing their growth from the beginning of the year, especially with all the underclassmen that we had. They really worked their hardest and never gave up, putting forth their best effort into their competitive events. I can’t wait to see them continue to develop professionally the next four years to become emerging leaders, and I’m so grateful to be their DECA advisor.”
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.
To learn more about this story, please contact:
Elaine Zhai, Director of Communications