Making the Most of Your Time in DECA
I realize now that I’m going to sound like every senior who talks about leaving high school, but everyone says it because it’s true: it files by. Even if you’re only a freshman now, it won’t be long before you’re a senior getting ready to graduate. I know you probably don’t, but just trust me. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why you have to work to make the most of your time in DECA. For general tips, check out my video blog. This is going to be about my time in DECA and what I’ve done, and hopefully you’ll be able to get some ideas.
I’d like to point out now that I’m not trying to say this is the best way to spend your time in DECA. This is just what I’ve done, and what I’ve thought about it all, so you can avoid the mistakes I made, and triumph where I’ve triumphed.
My biggest mistake in DECA was my first semester of my freshman year. I didn’t participate at all. Many people are guilty of this as well and that’s okay, you can definitely recover. You probably aren’t reading this if you’re not very involved in DECA, but on the off chance I just described you, get involved. I can’t emphasize enough how great an impact DECA can have on your life.
By my second semester of freshman year, I loved competing and started to get more involved in my chapter’s socials, meetings, and service events. If you’re hesitant about diving in head first (there’s no reason to be but I was before too), then those are great examples of how to get likely involved. Once you start those little things, you’ll be hooked.
After getting a lot more involved by the end of my freshman year, I decided to run for chapter office. That’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’d never trade the experiences I had working with my team, getting to know my advisor, and making a difference at my school. It only took a few months before I realized I wanted to go even deeper into the organization and run for association office.
This may not be the case for everyone, but for me, running for office was the best decision I made. Yes, there were hundreds of hours put into my campaign, yes there were dozens of late nights, and yes there was an incredible amount of stress, but it was all well worth it. I’ve learned and grown so much, and I’ll carry the memories with me forever. That applies to any position you end up holding in DECA. If you give it your all, you’ll have incredible experiences and it will be well worth all the hard times.
After that, my DECA story gets pretty boring. I’ve been an association officer for two years, and in that time I’ve tried to make the most of every opportunity. Regardless of what you do in DECA, I encourage you to do the same. Again I’d like to emphasize that this blog isn’t a guide. The decisions I’ve made in DECA worked out for the best for me, but I’m sure there’s a path that’s perfect for you. DECA has LIMITLESS opportunities. All you have to do is decide what opportunities you’re going to take advantage of.
If you’ve looked through the Annual Business Plan, you may have seen one activity is to create a professional development plan. So you might be wondering: what is a professional development plan? Great question! It’s a plan for how to develop your team as leaders. That may be vague, but that’s really all it takes. In my opinion, every officer team should have a professional development plan, formal or informal, to help improve their officers.
To help you out, I’ll walk you through how I developed a professional development plan for the officers this year. First of all, you need to know what they need help with. Whether they aren’t good at public speaking, communicating with businesses, managing social media, or anything in between, providing opportunities to experience these things will help them grow as leaders. So, once you find out what they consider to be their weaknesses, expose them to those things. It can be as simple as that In my experience, the most growth has come from the most trying times. By finding ways for them to go out of their comfort zone throughout their term, they’ll be much better for it.
The Annual Business Plan requires an outline of the professional development plan you used. The easiest way to arrange this is by separating each individual’s name, weakness(es), opportunities he or she had to overcome the weakness(es), and how successful it was. For example, if there was an officer named Sarah who wasn’t confident in public speaking, and was given the opportunity to speak at chapter meetings, helping her no longer fear public speaking, you could list all of that information. Then, repeat that process for all of your officers. Keep in mind that this only addressed a single weakness, but it’s likely that many of your officers will have many. I’d recommend working with as many weaknesses as possible so your officers can make the most of their time in DECA.
A professional development plan is one of the things in DECA that is easily overlooked, but is extremely valuable. As you can tell, it’s fairly simple to put one together, and your officers will benefit greatly. Professional development plans truly can have a lifelong impact on the members who are involved in your chapter, and I’d greatly recommend you taking advantage of the opportunity to put one into place.
A legacy is something that I think isn’t talked about enough. It’s something that you’ll be remembered by in your chapter, and maybe even your community. By using a legacy as an end goal, it also makes it easier to decide what you should do, and how much work should be put in. If you want to learn more about a legacy itself and why it’s so important to have one, check out my video blog. Here, I want to help you decide what you want your legacy to be.
When thinking about a legacy, a lot of people get worried about what they’ll be remembered by. It’s definitely scary, but to me, there’s a simple way to narrow it down. All you have to do is ask yourself one question: What are you passionate about? Make a list and narrow it down to your top 3. One of these three things, or more than one, should be what you focus on when thinking about your legacy. Also keep in mind it is possible to leave a legacy by doing a bunch of things well, but in my experience, it is easier to accomplish if you do a couple things incredibly.
Regardless, these three things hopefully fall under the scope of your officer position. If not, perhaps there’s a way you can connect one of your passions to the responsibilities of your position. I’m sure there’s some connection. Anyways, take your top three choice, and come up with concrete ideas for how to accomplish them. These should be ideas with a large impact, and that can be continued for years to come. Then when you’ve left your chapter, people can continue what you started, and remember you for starting it.
Follow through this process, and you’ll hopefully have ideas of what you want to do. If not, I have a few of my own. For example, if you want your chapter to do better in competition (which to be fair it is getting late for), there are many steps you can take. You could have a state officer come in and speak about competition, have quizzes every meeting and the top 3 scoring members get prizes, or start an afterschool study program to prepare. Every chapter has different opportunities, and you should take advantage of all of them. Another passion may be community involvement. You could partner with a local nonprofit, and learn about how they manage their finances, while also volunteering. You could also use this involvement in a chapter project. There are LIMITLESS opportunities out there if you’re willing to take advantage of them.
A legacy is attainable, just find your passions. Hopefully I’ve helped and you can use this process to make a massive impact within your chapter and community. DECA gives you the resources to do so many different things, and you only have four years (or fewer left) to take advantage of that. Don’t waste the time you have.
HAPPY DECA MONTH!! For those of you who don’t know, November is DECA Month and with it comes a lot of opportunities to get involved in DECA. I went into detail about these in my video blog, but in this blog, I want to highlight different things you can participate in within your chapter. First of all, Florida DECA Day. Florida DECA Day is November 29th and, if you choose to participate, then it will complete an activity in the Annual Business Plan. What participation looks like is really just anything to support the organization. Last year, we had chapters host socials, do advisor appreciation events, have fundraisers, or special spirit days within their chapter. Then, they posted about them on social media and we got to see all of the cool things different chapters did. I highly encourage you to participate, and here are some ideas that are definitely worth a shot.
Socials: These are a simple, fun way to get your chapter members involved. You can do a seasonal one (such as a fall or holiday theme), a DECA related one, or any one that your chapter sees fit, as long as it ties back to DECA.
Community Service Events: These are a great way to give back to the community, while also getting your chapter involved. Whether it’s a big donation drive on that day, or a service project (a beach cleanup, going to an organization to volunteer, etc.) it’s a great way to get out into the community and have them learn about DECA.
Chapter Spirit Day: This is probably the simplest kind of event, but definitely is still a fun way to celebrate DECA month. Whether it’s having everyone wear blue, or a chapter shirt, a DECA diamond, or anything, it’s really cool to have your school and community see what DECA is all about.
Advisor Appreciation Events: This is my favorite thing to do within DECA Month. Your advisors do so much for you and your chapter, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Whether its organizing something for them, getting them a nice gift or gift basket, or any number of things, it’s a great way to show your DECA advisor you appreciate them, during DECA Month.
So you want to run for Team 61? Great! So you’re probably wondering: what’s the first step? Well the very first thing you should do is look through the candidate packet, which can be found under Officers -> Candidate Information. The one for Team 61 isn’t out yet, but you can look at the one for Team 60; the new one shouldn’t be much different. Here, you can find everything that is expected of you during the candidate process, and what is expected of you if you get elected. Make sure you meet all of the requirements to run for office.
If you’re still interested after reading through the packet, talk to your advisor. To run for office, you need support from your advisor(s) and your chapter, so get them on board as soon as possible. Once they’ve approved, it’s time for you to fill out the candidate packet! It’s fairly long, so definitely start filling it out as soon as you’re able to, provided the Team 61 packet has been released.
Keep in mind that a scanned and physical copy of the completed packet aren’t the only things you need. You’ll also need a professional picture to be used in your campaign ad, and you’ll need a copy of your transcript to mail with your physical copy. Again, get these out of the way sooner rather than later, so you don’t have to scramble. Also, keep in mind that your campaign ad will be due soon after your candidacy is announced, so start working on that as soon as you find out.
Just filling out the packet doesn’t make you a candidate though. You also must pass the candidate exam with a 70% or higher. SPEND TIME STUDYING. The exam is fairly difficult, even with preparation, so going in without preparing is setting yourself up for failure. Take a look at the available study guides, found in the same place as the candidate packet. A general rule of thumb for studying for the exam: if information is on the study guide, it is going to be on the exam. Even if you think there’s no way a question could be asked about it, there is. Study.
Hopefully you’ll pass the exam, and at that point you’ll officially be a candidate. You’ll need to put together a platform, speech, booth, and giveaways for states. This is a huge and time consuming process so start early. Practice caucusing at least a few times so you get a feel for how they work. Also, don’t forget you cannot announce your candidacy on social media or to anyone outside your district until CDC. In your district, however, consider visiting chapters to gain their support. You are allowed to announce your candidacy within your district.
After all of this, the delegates vote, and you’ll hopefully hear your name be called as a Team 61 officer. If not, you grew so much that I’m sure all of your efforts were worth it. And that’s it. You made it; you’re a Team 61 officer. It’s a long road, but it ends in just 5 months. It’s not nearly as far away as it seems. Plan now so you don’t have to stress later. If you have any questions, reach out to me via email (email@example.com), social media, or text. Good luck.
What should I expect from ELS? Well that’s a great question to ask because you’ve come to the right place! ELS is a three day conference, which covers a bunch of material. Since it’s only three days, things are pretty packed. It starts the evening of Friday, November 3rd, and finishes up the morning of Sunday, November 5th. So let’s get into what every day looks like.
Friday- Your chapter will most likely get there sometimes in the late afternoon or evening. ELS opens with some of the best role play advice you could ask for. Everything from how to set up your scrap paper to what you should say, you’ll learn it. After that, myself and the rest of Team 60 have some special activities planned that we know you guys will love. You won’t want to miss it.
Saturday morning is when it gets real. You’ll have the opportunity to do a role play in front of a judge, and really see what you do well, and what needs work. The opportunity to do a role play in front of a real judge is invaluable, and you should definitely take advantage of it. While role plays are going on, there will be even more workshops available for you to attend and learn about a huge variety of things, all depending on what you want to hear. After this, you and your chapter can spend time a Busch Gardens which, if you haven’t been there, is incredibly fun. Once you get back, there’s three more workshops. Two you’ll definitely participate in, the third you have a choice. If you’re interested in running for Team 61, there’s a session just for you. If you aren’t, there’s a separate workshop instead.
Sunday morning, Team 60 again has some incredible workshops planned, and we know you’ll get a lot out of them. I don’t want to spoil too much, but trust me, they’re pretty great. After that, there’s closing, and then my least favorite part of ELS- going home. Just like that, three days is over, and so is ELS. It goes by quick, but it’s definitely not something you want to miss. I can’t recommend ELS to you enough, and I hope I see you there.
So recruiting new members. It’s important, but… why? Does it really matter how many members a chapter has? Basically, yes! Having a goal of gaining new members is great for so many reasons, a couple of which I’ll get into.
A note I’d like to make first though, is that growth isn’t necessarily the best for every chapter. Some chapters are perfect at the size they’re at, and growing wouldn’t help their chapter. These chapters want to sustain their membership, and keep their numbers relatively the same. If your advisor wants that for their chapter, listen to them. They have their reasons and are looking out for your best interests. For these chapters, I implore you to recruit professional and alumni members, provided your advisor approves.
Now, onto why membership is important. It may not seem like it, but it matters for all of Florida. Because of the membership we have, we are able to send 5 or 6 people to ICDC in each event, depending on what kind of event it is. If we increase our membership this year, we may be able to send 6 people in EVERY event! I think that is a great incentive. New members (professional and alumni included) help out the entire state.
On top of that, of course membership is important to your chapter at well. Some chapters take pride in their size, and use it as bragging rights. Bigger chapters (typically) have more support from their school’s administration which is definitely a plus. Larger chapters also have more potential fundraisers, event winners, or officer candidates. Just the sheer numbers provides an advantage. In addition to this, the Membership campaign challenges chapters to add 20 student members this year, so your growth may satisfy this! If you have any questions about campaigns, feel free to email me about them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hopefully these few reasons have given you an idea of why membership is important. Members make the organization and they’re the reason Florida DECA is great. Our members make Florida DECA limitless!
Summer is LIMITLESS
While summer may be tempting to just tan and relax, it’s an incredible time to get ready for next year. Don’t get me wrong, definitely enjoy your summer, but by enjoying AND utilizing it, your summer can be LIMITLESS. Here are just a few ways you can do this.
1. Plan out Next Year.
Whether it’s DECA Inc. Campaigns, the ABP, Helping Hands, or Chapter Projects, there are a few thing that you know for sure you’ll be doing. Take some time over the summer to plan out these events so you aren’t scrambling last minute. It’s always hard to go back to school, so get this work done now so you can focus on your other work later.
2. Get Ready for Competition.
Hopefully you’ll be competing next year, and using the summer is a great way to get an edge over your competition. You have two months, with very few things to do, so you can really dive deep into your event. Whether it’s starting your presentation, studying performance indicators, or planning events, doing ANYTHING is a great way to start the next year of competition.
3. Get an Internship
Reach out to local businesses and see if any of them need interns. An internship is a great way to get job experience, pad your résumé, and make the most of your summer. You never know where the connections you make can take you!
4. Membership Recruitment
You might have to wait until the end of summer for this one, but definitely recruit members for your chapter if possible (Some chapters operations don’t allow for this to be feasible; you know your chapter. If there’s any doubt, just ask your advisor.) Many schools have “back-to-school” type days just before school starts, and that is a great time to set up a booth, have an activity planned, or just do something to advertise DECA.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that summer isn’t forever. Make the most of it, and you’ll be glad you did when next year comes around. Have a great summer!