December marked the beginning of competition season for members of Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA). But for many this year, changes to the competition in terms of virtual participation brought new challenges and excitements.
Among these is one for CHS9, which starting from this year, has its own DECA chapter.
Prior to this year, the DECA chapter at CHS9 had been merged with Coppell High School, with two students representing the freshmen class at meetings. However, due to coordination issues and a lack of connection, a decision was made to create a new CHS9 chapter.
“We were finding it harder and harder to find that benefit [of having one chapter across the campuses],” CHS9 DECA adviser Kim Porter said. “[But] the primary reason was so that we could have full officers and really start to develop those leaders as freshmen.”
Given those leadership opportunities, CHS9 DECA committed to excelling. Thirty out of 44 freshmen, including all members of the chapter leadership team, advanced to state from the competitions conducted in December.
“The officers and I are extremely proud of our chapter,” CHS9 DECA president Srihith Thotapalle said. “With everything going on in our world, it is such an amazing sight to see some positivity.”
The December district regional competitions were formerly in-person, with students traveling to the University of Texas at Dallas in October to participate in a mock competition before experiencing the real one in January. However, due to COVID-19, this year’s district competitions were moved to December, with students recording a video submission instead of presenting live.
An important facet of the freshman chapter is leadership skills, as the competition aspect of DECA heavily revolves around presentations. The CHS9 DECA chapter is led by Thotapalle, vice president of leadership Shreya Rastogi, vice president of marketing Roma Jani, vice president of finance Tanya Nikam, vice president of career development Anushree De and vice president of hospitality Shamita Mallu.
“I’ll push back any kind of spotlight onto my officers,” Porter said. “They have been phenomenal. They’re very intelligent and articulate individuals and are leading the organization really well.”
Community is another facet of the freshman chapter, as it is responsible for raising its own funds and interacting with businesses to do so.
“Community is really important [in DECA],” Rastogi said. “One thing you should always think about is how to help the people around you, so that’s why we always try to do volunteer opportunities like emailing different businesses, trying to see how we can help them out or just letting them know that they’re doing great during the pandemic.”
The chapter has been conducting meetings virtually every other Wednesday with the officers. The meetings with fundraiser updates are followed by volunteering opportunities and competition updates. The members are then sorted into breakout rooms in which they practice for their individual events.
“DECA is so great because it allows us to practice as if we’re in the real world,” Jani said. “You’re learning how to converse with people and think on the spot, and that’s a great skill anyone can use.”
In May, members who have advanced to the state level will compete in another round of virtual competitions.
“This school year has been hard,” De said. “But I definitely feel like we’ve had fun in DECA. [Freshmen] should take up clubs. They create a sense of family. You create such a bond with everyone, and it’s really amazing to see that bond.”
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