BY SYDNEY SNELSON
Second semester of freshman year I walked into Mr. Harper’s class three weeks late. This was back when Truman partook in a hybrid schedule, and due to quarantine for possible exposure this was my first time back in school before winter break. Harper told me to sit in the seat right in front of him, as it was the only available chair left. About halfway through the class period Harper asked me if I wanted to join the club he ran called DECA. He explained it was a nationwide business organization and that I would partake in a role play competition that mirrored real life situations. I had never heard of DECA, but I had made it a goal to become involved in high school. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to do so. I agreed to join, paid my registration fee, and was told by Harper to pick which event I wanted to do. Since I was a first year, I was allowed to compete in Principles. I didn’t really think about DECA too much before districts. I had no idea how wild the next four months would be.
Fast forward a few weeks, and it was time to compete at districts. Before doing any roleplay I would have to take a test. The test was one hundred questions and focused on topics that correlated to the event we chose. I completed mine at home, then came in the next day to find that roleplay videos were due in a few hours. Due to COVID, DECA had been forced to switch to an online version of competition. We would all video our roleplay and send it in to be judged. After two tries, I felt confident enough to submit my video. Now we played the waiting game to find out which of us would move on to state. A few days went by, and the results were finally in. We all gathered in Harper’s room after school to see who qualified to state. Being the only freshman and person with the least amount of business experience, I wasn’t expecting to do well. Only the top four moved on, and so far our competitors with multiple years of business classes were moving onward. Harper scrolled down to my event name: Principles of Hospitality and Tourism. Next to the dark blue lettering of 1st place was my name.
I was shocked. I didn’t expect to place. I quickly snapped a picture, my hands shaking with excitement. One of my teammates turned to me, “You’re a freshman right?” I shook my head in return. He smirked and seemed impressed. I made a mental note of this moment. I decided DECA was what I wanted to do. I hadn’t even made it to nationals yet, but something told me I wouldn’t be disappointed with my season.
A little under a month later it was time for state. Due to our test scores, only one other teammate and myself were allowed to compete (which is not how normal years work and was only done because of COVID). We submitted our videos on our own time, as the window was larger because of the increase in competitors, and the day before the results were released Harper called us into his room. He started off by giving us our prizes for qualifying to state: a couple of shirts, pins, and other goodies. He then wanted to talk about ICDC. He wanted to make sure we were committed if we moved on. My teammate and I both knew we would compete if able to. Satisfied with our answer, Harper sent us on our way.
As you can imagine I did in fact qualify for ICDC. When I was awoken by my mother who had been watching the results livestream since it started, I couldn’t believe my luck. I had done the things every DECA member dreams about doing.
I went on to compete at ICDC and although I was not a finalist there I’m still grateful for the experience. It helped me with public speaking, how to be confident with my ideas, and prepared me for future situations. Plus, I was able to receive some pretty cool trophies:
Last year, my sophomore year didn’t go as planned. Since I was no longer a first year DECA member, I had to compete in normal roleplays, which were harder. I still did decent at district, placing third, but the state competition hit closer to home. I was not a ICDC qualifier, nor a finalist. I was heartbroken. Going from a district champ and national qualifier, to a third place district winner hurt my ego. I started to believe I had lost all credibility. But I now know that just simply isn’t true.
DECA isn’t just about winning, it’s about growing as an individual. Not qualifying showed me my strengths and weaknesses, as well as my potential as a competitor. This season, although not officially started, I’ve already done so much for myself as a DECA member.
I attended conferences, meetings, and classes that will help me become a stronger competitor. Going on trips and seeing real life examples of the roleplays and scenarios us DECA members compete in has closed the gap on playing pretend and being in society.
There’s a place for everyone in DECA. There’s categories and events that fit all members’ backgrounds and goals. This organization is a hub for creative minds to come together and create something amazing. Joining DECA has allowed me to gain knowledge I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else and has changed my highschool experience forever. I know it can do the same for you.
If you’re interested in joining DECA, reach out to me; Sydney Snelson, Sebastian Menzona, or Dan Harper in room 106. Hope to see you soon!