DECA kicks off school year with DECA Launch


Tiffany Chang

Freshmen mentees listen to mentor Sujith Pakala (12) discuss how to edit their executive plan. DECA Launch began on Saturday afternoon and continued throughout Sunday.

by Tiffany Chang, TALON Academics Editor

Designed to expose incoming freshmen to the Harker DECA, DECA officers brought together 67 freshmen for the annual DECA launch, which was held at the upper school over the weekend of Aug. 14. The launch began on Saturday with an opening ceremony featuring the 2020-21 Vice President of Competitions Bryan Zhang (’21) and current DECA member Ada Praun-Petrovic speaking about their experiences with the group. Attendees also heard from DECA co-CEOs Gianna Chan (12) and Clarice Wang (12), who introduced the organization and their plans for the year.

Around noon, the freshmen participated in a scavenger hunt, in which they searched for officers scattered around the campus and completed a set of tasks before returning to the Innovation Center. This activity gave students an opportunity to not only acquaint themselves with the upper school campus but also to bond with one another before starting the Innovation Challenge, a two-day event in which freshmen split into groups of four to six students to come up with an idea to solve a issue, which could be as large as global warming or as small as jamming a finger. Each group was led by a mentor who explained how to create an executive plan for their product.

DECA Vice President of Public Relations Catherine He (12) described this mentorship process as one of her favorite parts of the event.

“It’s fun to watch [the students] grow and learn about the DECA world and high school,” Catherine said. “I’m looking forward to hearing their presentations because they worked so hard and we gave them so much guidance, and it’d be fun to see the fruit of their labor.”

After discussing and considering various business ideas for the Innovation Challenge, freshman Daniel Dorfman’s group proposed an app that connects individuals looking to adopt pets to adoptable animals.

“I really liked the Innovation Challenge,” Daniel said. “We did a bunch of research [and] financial preparations. [My main takeaway was that] if you want your business to succeed, you have to work hard.”

Daniel also enjoyed the roleplay on Sunday afternoon, where each freshman gave an impromptu speech on how to solve a problem. At the conclusion of the event, students presented their projects to an alumni panel of past DECA officers and mentors that included Lucas Wang (’17), Evan Cheng (’20), Rishi Dange (’20) and Elaine Zhai (’21), who provided feedback. 

To give returning officers an opportunity to familiarize themselves with newly elected officers prior to the event, the entire leadership team also participated in a retreat from July 24-25, playing a GooseChase scavenger hunt at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, solving an escape room and holding a subteam cookoff.

“Behind the event, there were countless hours of dedication from our amazing DECA officers and myself, collaborating on how to best [organize] an event of the highest quality with the most participants ever at a DECA launch event,” chapter adviser and Business and Entrepreneurship Teacher Juston Glass said. “It was challenging, but I can feel our DECA officers came together as a team and gave our new DECA members the best experience that they could’ve had.”

Clarice hoped that the launch introduced the freshmen to the warm, welcoming DECA environment and helped them view the officers as approachable figures, rather than intimidating upperclassmen.

“We want them to know that DECA is a community that will be there for them and that the officers are always there to help them out,” Clarice said. “I’m really passionate about bringing kids to conferences because it has helped me grow personally as a leader and a communicator, and I want to make that experience available for them.”

Additional reporting by Emily Tan. 

A previous version of this article stated that Bryan Zhang (’21) was the Vice President of Communications instead of the Vice President of Competitions. This article has been updated to reflect the correction of this error.