Humans of Harker: Leading with DECA-cation

Anvitha Tummala finds confidence in leadership through DECA


Shreya Srinivasan

“When I came into high school, I was ready to be a follower. But DECA was a game changer for me. It helped me overcome my fear of public speaking, and it’s played such a major role in who I’ve become today. To be able to successfully lead a chapter of 150 students, an officer team and be one of the upperclassmen I once really admired is something I’m [really] proud of,” Anvitha Tummala (’21) said.

Imagine a leader. Do they infuse confidence in others? Go out of their way to help their peers? Ensure that, before a competition, their teammates feel well-prepared? Personally organize meetings and study sessions to foster a community despite the online circumstances? Wake up early to buy doughnuts for a fundraiser? From DECA to the classroom, Anvitha Tummala (’21) leads with passion.

Despite her success now, Anvitha’s DECA career began with hardship. After not winning her events in freshman year, Anvitha initially was hesitant to apply for an officer position, assuming that she would not be accepted into the position. Pushing past that first fear of failure, however, eventually led to greater success down the road.

“In freshman year, I did not stage for my events, but that didn’t stop me. I still tried to become an officer, and they accepted me, and then the next year, and since then, I have placed in every single one of my events,” Anvitha said.

Anvitha credits a hospitality and tourism operations research event she did in sophomore year as the turning point in her participation in DECA. She chose to do research on a local cafe in downtown Saratoga, and the dedication she and her partner put into the project resulted in their placing in the top ten at a state conference.

“We went out and interviewed the owner of the cafe, which was a really cool experience,” Anvitha said. “We got to learn about the insides of small business and apply it to our own project, so we definitely worked very hard, and it was nice to see that payoff. For me, that was huge. I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even get to go on stage freshman year and now I’m up here.’”

More than the gratification in winning physical awards, though, Anvitha holds her DECA community, from fellow officers to novice freshmen, close to her heart. Her commitment to nurturing underclassmen in their events precipitated great personal growth as well, molding her into the leader she is today.

“As I moved up throughout high school, I spent more time helping and guiding the underclassmen than focusing on my own events and activities,” Anvitha said. “I felt prouder seeing my DECA mentees and chapter on stage at the award ceremony than when I’m up there myself. I know I would have appreciated having an upperclassman to reach out to for advice, so I’m glad that I can be someone to reach out to through DECA.”

Lisa Barooah (‘21), close friend and co-CEO of DECA, notes the countless amount of time that Anvitha dedicated to helping out other people. Lisa especially admires Anvitha’s work as vice president of competitions in junior year, where she led the mentorship aspect of DECA, teaching the underclassmen about business and instructing them on how to perform better at written events.

“Anvitha is definitely one of those leaders who leads by example,” Lisa said. “She would spend hours — all of her lunches, all of her morning session office hours — helping out these kids. If there is something that is not graphically designed well, she will redesign it. She is always on time to things, always super professional, and I think that sense is contagious to the team.”

Other than her official leadership roles in DECA, however, Anvitha also acts as a leader in her classes and in advisory. Anvitha’s adviser Liz Brumbaugh describes Anvitha’s transformation from a shy ninth-grader to the confident and empathetic leader she has become.

“When she was a freshman, she was reserved, but it was more like not necessarily being confident in her abilities to lead in a group. I saw very clearly in our advisory, everyone suddenly started depending on her as sort of an advisory mom,” Brumbaugh said. “A lot of little things pieced together for her that made her realize, ‘No, I think I am good in leadership.’ Getting over impostor syndrome and feeling like you have something of worth to contribute is a tricky thing that people deal with their entire lives. That’s the growth that I’ve seen in her, her leadership.”

Anvitha’s four-year journey through DECA not only fostered great personal growth but also sparked a lifelong passion for business, a field that she hopes to pursue in the future.

“Without DECA, I wouldn’t have realized I do enjoy business and I do want it to play some part in my life when I’m in college and beyond,” Anvitha said. “The hospitality tourism research event was definitely an eye-opening experience because we got to talk to a business owner and we got to learn what it’s like to run a business. [DECA] was that first step that taught me that this is something I enjoy, and it might be something I want to pursue.”

Her experience with business in DECA enriched her other extracurricular activities as well. Volunteering at a hospital’s gift shop helped Anvitha better understand the process of running a small business.

“I was able to meet with so many people and have great interactions, [but] I also learned about running a small business in a way because I was running the gift shop,” Anvitha said. “Sometimes, patients would come in and start talking about their life and how they were going through really rough patches. By simply welcoming every single person that came into the gift shop, I was able to hopefully positively impact their day, which was really my ultimate goal as a volunteer.”

Ultimately, DECA has fundamentally shaped Anvitha over the course of high school in ways she never predicted. From being a member of the community to the leader of one, Anvitha continues to guide and inspire others.

“When I came into high school, I was ready to be a follower, but DECA was a game changer for me,” Anvitha said. “It helped me overcome my fear of public speaking, and it’s played such a major role in who I’ve become today. To be able to successfully lead a chapter of 150 students, an officer team and be one of the upperclassmen I once really admired is something I’m [really] proud of.”