Though this is my first year in DECA, I have seen first-hand what makes DECA so different from so many other clubs and student-run organizations. It’s in the spirit of DECA that some of the greatest ideas are made and the next generation of leaders are uncovered, and there is no better place than to experience DECA in the midst of competition.
Friday: Opening Ceremony (Because I Said I Would)
When I first walked into the conference center for the first time to attend opening ceremony, I didn’t know what to expect. I had assumptions and superstitions, but nothing was concrete. In the past, I had attended many state and national conference opening sessions and none of them had met to par with what I saw at DECA. The session began by introducing all the state officers and ended with one of the most beautiful and inspirational messages that I have ever heard in my life. DECA had invited the founder of the “Because I said I would” movement (BISIW) Alex Sheen. BISIW is a nonprofit dedicated to promise-keeping and building spurred from the death of Sheen’s father. Through 10 minutes of talk, Sheen had brought the entire congregation to tears with heartfelt anecdotes and messages. Sheen’s thoughts on promises and living every day as one’s last has resonated with me ever since and encourages me to continue pursuing my dreams and making a difference in the world. From there, our chapter went to dinner and enjoyed a good time with our state officers Charlsie Key and Howard Shi.
After dinner, our chapter went through some last-minute competition practice where I saw first hand the rigor and motivation that led our chapter to such a stage. It was amazing to see how committed many of my peers were to their competition and project and was another set of inspiration for the company pitch I had to give with Sprout the following day.
Saturday: Competition, Competition
Saturday was the day of my first DECA presentation. Now I have given many presentations at other conferences including TSA and ISEF, but I never felt the nervousness and anxiety that I felt minutes before my DECA competition. Howard and I had worked endlessly perfecting our presentation weeks before and had just finished making last minute changes the night before. It was 11:00am and it was our time to shine. We were competing in Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan (EIP), the largest competition with over 60 other teams pitching their billion dollar ideas, the odds were heavily stacked against us. As we entered the competition exhibit, I saw rows upon rows of other competitors with a long set of booths, each with judges critiquing and commenting on their projects. As the clock ticked by and the thoughts of presenting kept nagged at my mind, it was our term to present. Long story short, Howard and I nailed the presentation, it was the best that we had ever did, speaking naturally and from our hearts. Truly a great performance and experience for my first DECA competition.
That night, we had a mini awards session to award all the roleplay events and test events. Though my event was not called up as it didn’t fit those categories, it was riveting to see the hard work that all my peers put in the day before pay off on the stage. That night I went to bed peacefully, knowing that what’s left was just awards.\
Going into the awards ceremony, I was very confident. Yet my inner confidence did nothing to help the nerves that continued to build up as competition after competition was called up. Every competition that wasn’t mine added a new set of nerves to my already pile of anxiety. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, it hit our competition. Unlike other competitions, VA DECA posted their finalists on a giant jumbo screen, listing all the names. Scanning through all the names, it almost seemed that our name wasn’t there, until my friends next to me jumped up ecstatically; I then rushed backstage to walk onto the awards stage. Standing on stage made me realize how large VA DECA was and how passionate so many of the competitors were about their projects. It was a time of both celebration and hope for the next level, namely ICDC. I had known that we had made it and that we could keep developing and improving. It was a win.
Conclusion: Thank You VA DECA
Overall, I just want to say how amazed and inspired I was by the number of people, finalists, activities, competitions, and speakers present at this years Virginia DECA. It was an experience of a lifetime and one that I am bound to cherish for a long time. DECA was a place that was so tightly knit. Our chapter rooted for each other and helped each other out during competition practice, each coaching the other, providing tips and assistance. I had never seen anything like that. It was truly an experience of joy, hope, camaraderie, and pride. I am proud to have competed at VA DECA SLC and I can’t wait to represent VA DECA at the next level, ICDC.