Teaching the business leaders of tomorrow
No one really knows just how many corporate and other professional leaders had their interest in business piqued in one of the hundreds of DECA student organizations in the country, but no doubt quite a few get their start at these business-training groups at Amador Valley and Foothill high schools.
Laurie Andrews, the Tri-Valley ROP teacher at Amador and advisor to its DECA group, was busy this week helping 144 of her DECA students out of 292 in this year's program prepare for regional competitions in marketing, business management, hospitality and entrepreneurship, the specialties of DECA's focus. The top winners then have a chance to compete against other DECA groups internationally, and every senior who completes the program will be honored with a special ribbon with the DECA emblem when they graduate in June.
DECA graduates keep in touch. Many report back to Andrews when they get settled on their college campuses, usually in business schools where they determined in high school which of the numerous specialties to study. Quite a few came back to Andrews' classroom the week before the winter break to work with her students in preparing their business plans, product promotion campaigns and entrepreneurial strategies.
Every Monday, the Amador DECA group assembles 100-strong or more in Andrews' classroom to get their assignments, discuss their projects and learn about opportunities in business. It's not a club, Andrews points out, but part of the high school curriculum approved by both the U.S. and state departments of education. Each year, one of the students is selected to work with the state on programs.
Their best help, however, comes from Andrews, a member of the California DECA board of directors who has been an ROP teacher and DECA advisor for 25 years. She says that joining DECA is one of the most worthwhile activities students can be involved with during high school and the camaraderie lasts a lifetime. It's the organization for students interested in building a business career and association with the "Best of the Best," she insists.
Two of her students -- Sanjana Seth, this year's co-president of the Amador DECA organization, and Akshay Bommireddi, the group's chief financial officer -- gave her glowing tributes in presentations they made last month to the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, which sponsors the Amador Valley High organization.
DECA was funded in 1946 and was originally named the Distributive Education Clubs of America, or DECA. That's the name it uses now internationally and on its headquarters sign in Reston, Va., appropriately located on Association Drive and next door to the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Future Farmers of America (FFA). Both the Foothill and Amador DECA groups are members of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, whose members volunteer their time to work with these enterprising students who someday may be sales, marketing, finance or human resource executives in their own companies, or well-heeled competitors.
Besides preparing themselves for business careers, or using their high school experience as they move on to professions as doctors, lawyers and teachers, where a business education also is needed, Andrews' students also participate in community projects to help local nonprofits. This year, the group agreed to help Valley Humane Society, developing fundraising literature and promotional materials, and, on Jan. 26, doing whatever is needed at the Nevada Street facility, including cleaning cages. Natalie Neumann, a senior, is developing profiles of each of the pets now at VHS to post on a blog in hopes that a good foster "parent" will offer to care for the animal until it's adopted.
Working with the many DECA students at Amador, one of the largest chapters in the state, Andrews provides the educational and leadership development and teaching skills that a successful career in business requires. Working hand-in-hand with the educational and business community, her goal for her students is "to develop a career success kit to carry into their professional and personal lives after graduating, including occupational skills needed for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and entrepreneurship." That's quite a mission statement in itself.