Last night was the Grand Awards for the 2010 DECA State Conference. All the students dress up to celebrate the end of the conference and anxiously await to see how their projects did. The night started off hot with six of the kids earning trips to Nationals in their series events. Then, a girl who wrote a 30-page Public Relations manual got 1st place in her event. Most shocking of all was that Klamath Union DECA got Chapter of the Year! Chapter of the Year is the best award you can win as a chapter. With only 20 students this year (last year there were almost double that), we never thought we would beat out chapters with over 150 members! After the awards, the kids, their parents and advisors took pictures then we go back to the chapter's headquarters for a closing meeting.
The meetings are always emotional with the students reminising over their time in DECA, the passion for the projects, and the relationships they have made. Last night their wasn't a dry eye in the room. For 3 hours we cry, we hug, we laugh, and we support each other. The seniors always talk about how thankful they are they joined DECA and how it is the best thing they have ever been involved in. I sat their last night and felt so inspired by these kids. How common is it in life to see mediocre people, and here I am in a room of 15-18 year olds being truly moved by how amazing they are. And not just by winning, but by being a team. It is crazy to think, but I have participated in or helped DECA for 9 years, been on numerous sports teams and associations, but I have never seen a better example of a team than the past three days. The kids supported each other and genuinely cared for how the other students in the chapter competed. All of us pulled long hours each night cooperatively benefitting each other. When a member of our chapter got on stage we all jumped up in enthusiasm and cheered at the top of our lungs. Other schools were envious- it was that awesome.
On a more personal note, last night was probably the first time I have ever felt more proud of the kid's accomplishments than of my own when I was competing. It was an incredible feeling and one that I look forward to experiencing. I came to work with Klamath Union DECA in a very unconventional way. I didn't go to high school there, but yet I am consider it my chapter. My mentor in high school went to teach there and I followed his work returning each year to work with the students on their business plans. Someone did that for me and I want to do that for these students.
There are about 220,000 high school students that do DECA annually. 1,200 compete at the Oregon State Conference and about 13,000 will be at nationals in a few months. It is an amazing organization.
Here are the kids on stage with their accomplishments:
Mr. Nielson, my DECA advisor, and I: