What the heck-a is DECA?

Dhara Yu, Author

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Paly DECA members pose for a picture at the Silicon Valley DECA regional competition. Photo by Alice Zhao

Paly DECA members pose for a picture at the Silicon Valley DECA regional competition. Photo by Alice Zhao.

This year, a new club has risen to prominence at Palo Alto High School: DECA.

In just a few short months of its existence, the Paly chapter has grown to include over 50 people and has had members place in a prestigious competition. But despite the club’s success as well as its prominent social media presence, quite a few Paly students are unaware of what the club is actually about. Paly DECA co-presidents junior Stephanie Cong and junior Karina Chan help explain the organization’s objectives.

“DECA is just a club that enhances learning of any business-related topics through competitive conferences,” Cong said.

DECA, which formerly stood for Distributive Education Clubs of America but is no longer used as an acronym for anything, is a club intended to increase high school students’ knowledge of the professional world. Chapters participate in contests at the regional, state and international levels in which students compete in various business-related events. Most of the events involve students showcasing their knowledge of a specific field of business, usually by making a sales pitch to a series of judges.

“Each person has a different event,” Chan said. “There are over 50 events offered, so there’s a lot of detail that goes into it, which is why it’s so hard to explain to people.”

So far, Paly DECA has attended the Leadership and Competitive Excellence Conference, an introductory event that offers workshops for DECA members to learn about the events offered and to improve their skills, and the Silicon Valley district conference.

“We were pretty successful [in the Silicon Valley conference],” Chan said “A third of all members who attended placed in their contests.”

Last year’s DECA was practically nonexistent, and Chan said she was inspired to revitalize the club at Paly after seeing the success of DECA programs at other local high schools.

“Other schools [Gunn, Lynbrook, Monta Vista and Mission San Jose] have big DECA clubs – all 200 to 400 people – and definitely there’s no club like that at Paly,” Chan said. “I wanted to start DECA to help give people that kind of experience.”

Both presidents attribute DECA’s popularity at Paly to the idea that the club gives people the opportunity to learn valuable skills and gain real-world business experience.

“A lot of people can see themselves going into the field [hospitality, finance, entrepreneurship, management, marketing] that they are currently studying for DECA,” Cong said. “As well as that, it [DECA] gives people an opportunity to network with other high school students.”

To promote their club, members have taken to social media; on two separate occasions, members have changed their profile pictures on Facebook to DECA-themed images. Cong and Chan both say DECA’s social media approach is an effective way to advertise the club and attract potential members.

“We know that if people don’t even know what DECA is when we talk to them, we have to have the same conversation over and over,” Cong said. “Having a large social media presence gets our name out there initially.”

Chan asserts that having a dynamic social media presence isn’t the main focus of Paly DECA.

“The value of our club is not our social media presence – it’s what skills we can offer to students,” Chan said. “It’s not about the profile pictures.”