On Aug. 14 and 15, the Harker DECA chapter hosted its eighth annual Harker DECA Launch event. A total of 70 incoming freshmen from the Class of 2025 attended the event, which introduced them to Harker’s business and entrepreneurship department and the DECA experience as a whole. The weekend consisted of alumni speakers, workshops, mock competitions and informative lectures.
On Saturday morning, the attendees socialized after a year of virtual learning while enjoying a breakfast of Noah’s Bagels. They then attended the opening ceremony inside Nichols Auditorium, where students were first introduced to the DECA experience through presentations and by listening to the experiences of alumni Bryan Zhang ‘21, former Harker DECA vice president of competitions, and current DECA member Ada Praun-Petrovic, grade 11.
Next, students participated in an icebreaker challenge led by director of membership Chloe Lee, grade 10, in order to get to know each other in preparation for the weekend. The innovation challenge teams, groups of five to six attendees and led by a Harker DECA officer, worked together to build the tallest free-standing structure using marshmallows, raw spaghetti and string. Following the icebreaker activity, attendees were brought into the Innovation Center, the home base of the B.E. department, where they learned more about DECA, from the competitive experience to the business clusters available in competitions. To further immerse the attendees in the competitive clusters, officers were stationed at five locations around the IC to speak about the five clusters that the students rotated through: business management and administration, hospitality and tourism, marketing, entrepreneurship and finance.
After lunch from Pizza My Heart, the 12 innovation challenge teams participated in a scavenger hunt activity where they searched for officers located in various parts of the upper school campus and performed different tasks such as winning a game of rock, paper, scissors or making a secret handshake.
“The Scavenger Hunt was really enjoyable because the challenges were designed to help us get to know our teammates better. It helped me learn the ins and outs of my teammates, which definitely helped us during the innovation challenge,” said Daniel Chen, grade 9.
After reconvening back at the IC, the competitions subteam, consisting of vice president of competitions and strategy Anika Muddu, grade 11, director of written events Kaitlyn Wang, grade 10, and director of roleplays Cynthia Wang, grade 10, introduced the innovation challenge. For the rest of the afternoon, the students worked in their teams to come up with a new idea that would fit under the umbrella of social entrepreneurship,” the theme for the 2021 DECA Launch Innovation Challenge.
“As one of the first in-person events to introduce freshmen to the Harker upper school, and for some, to the Harker community as a whole, I think DECA launch attendees were welcomed into the school in an exciting way. Through the innovation challenge, students became more familiar with DECA and the Harker B.E. department’s offerings. The other officers and I were so impressed by their work in the Innovation Challenge and are proud to welcome them all into the community,” said senior Gigi Chan, co-CEO.
The following day, chapter advisor Juston Glass gave an overview of the business and entrepreneurship department and the programs it includes. In fact, seniors Camilla Lindh, Ishaan Parate and Simren Kochhar were brought in to present their own business, H2OOT, which they had developed through the incubator class at Harker.
The officers conducted a deeper dive on the competitive experience of DECA through three main facets: the mentorship program, roleplay events and written events. The students watched a live roleplay and were guided through the various written event selection choices. They then participated in a game of Kahoot to simulate the business administration core exam with questions selected from past years’ tests.
“First-year members are usually a bit intimidated by roleplays, so I hope my live roleplay gave them more confidence in their abilities,” said Cynthia Wang.
Next, vice president of public relations Catherine He, grade 12, director of communications Claire Luo, grade 10, and director of technology Shreeya Merchia, grade 10, held a Graphic Design Workshop to aid the attendees in the creation of their Innovation Challenge slide decks and executive summaries.
After having lunch, the students were taught the tricks and tips of preparing and presenting a roleplay through the Roleplay Immersion Session hosted by the DECA mentors, leading into a roleplay tournament. The groups spent the rest of the afternoon finishing and polishing presentations and designing various materials before they pitched their final product.
“I remember coming to DECA Launch as a shy, confused freshman, so it was very exciting to watch them catch on quickly and contribute great ideas while running through a roleplay and giving them advice,” said mentor Victoria Han, grade 12.
In the evening, parents and attendees first listened to a panel consisting of alumni, including Haley Tran ‘17, Lucas Wang ‘17, Shania Wang ‘19, Evan Cheng ‘20, Rishi Dange ‘20 and Elaine Zhai ‘21, about their DECA experiences. Later, each of the 12 groups presented their innovative products in detail, including integral business components such as marketing plans, cost structures and financial analysis.
“I thought presenting the innovation challenge was a fun way to learn, and the feedback we received from the multiple experienced alumni was really helpful. It was really fulfilling to present what we’d worked on for the weekend. DECA launch was the perfect start to my high school experience,” said Sophia Liu, grade 9.
DECA launch was concluded with the awards ceremony, which recognized the top ten roleplay teams as well as the awards for the innovation challenge.
“I was so impressed by every single one of the attendees; their energy and enthusiasm made the event fun and exciting for everyone. I can’t wait for the school year to maximize our momentum and see what they all achieve!” said Glass.
Students that won awards are as follows (all grade 9):
1st Place: Hanyang Shang, Vedant Yadav
2nd Place: Daniel Chen, Alex Zhong
3rd Place: Veer Sahasi, Ruhan Sahasi
Most Feasible: Khanlinh Tran, Young Min, Andrew Liang, Shreyas Chakravarty, Ruhan Sahasi, Veer Sahasi
Best Presentation: Daniel Chen, Alex Zhong, Anika Pallapothu, Norah Mehanna, Navya Samuel, Tiana Salvi
Most Creative: Andre Lu, Gabriel Li, Rithika Yamasani, Cindy Yu, Rahul Yalla, Gary Jin
Best Overall: Daniel Dorfman, Charlize Wang, Claire Cheng, Nikhil Pesati, Maya Affaki, Sanaa Bhorkar