Sam Feldman was a little nervous going to SUNY Rockland Community College Jan. 7. He and six others from Edgemont High School were joining more than 300 students from the metropolitan area to take part in the regional competition for DECA, a nonprofit student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools across the country.
Although he was not going into the competition with high expectations, he was prepared; he had taken an online qualification test and met with his DECA Club members every other week for practice role-plays.
DECA, an organization that was formed in 1946 and currently has more than 220,000 high school members in 3,774 schools across the globe, is a business-minded organization that looks to challenge students and teach them business and marketing skills for the future. It presents students with challenges and prompts to ready them for a future career in business.
Feldman, a junior at EHS, first took an interest in business and entrepreneurship in eighth grade, when his technology class had to invest in a simulated stock market. He found the experience interesting and much more fascinating than the other classes he was taking at the time.
“I’m currently taking AP Statistics, which is one of the closer [classes] you can get to business,” said Feldman. “I know other schools have business classes and I feel like we’re just missing that.”
With Edgemont’s lack of business class offerings, Feldman’s quest to find a business-focused experience eventually led him to the school’s DECA Club, which he found advertised in the school’s daily bulletin.
“They advertised it as a business club,” said Feldman. “They gave a presentation and I thought it was pretty interesting and I signed up for it, but then there were no more meetings for the rest of the year after that.”
After the DECA Club president graduated and the club’s adviser stepped down, Feldman decided to take the club into his own hands and take it more seriously. Feldman now serves as co-president of the club, which is officially registered with DECA, has 12 members and is advised by Edgemont Junior/Senior High School Principal Kyle Hosier.
“The ability to speak in front of people, the ability to be creative with your ideas, the critical analysis that it requires; those are all tangible skills that we want students to develop and DECA provides a great opportunity to work on those skills,” said Hosier.
In November, the club participated in the DECA “Idea Challenge,” which tests students in DECA chapters across the country to generate an innovative use for a commonplace item.
“This year it was a shoelace,” said Feldman. “You have 10 days to think of a creative way to reuse the shoelace that solves a problem and you have to make a three-minute video showing that.”
A group of five students in the club started throwing ideas around until eventually the group came to a consensus. Then the team needed to figure out who would act in the video presentation, write the script and research.
“It’s really just out-of-the-box type of thinking,” said Feldman.
After 10 days, the group presented that the shoelace could act as an impromptu locking device on doors within the Edgemont school during an emergency situation.
“In the top corner of the door when you open it there’s a hinge that extends outward and we found a way to tie a shoelace around [the hinge] that actually locks the door and keeps it from opening,” said Feldman, who added that many of the doors in the school don’t have locks and the shoelace could act as a locking mechanism for those doors.
A DECA Club team from a high school in Franklin, Massachusetts, won the challenge, for its innovative project that made shoelaces into a facemask.
During the Edgemont group’s first regional event in January at the SUNY Rockland Community College competition, Feldman was given a prompt that challenged him to be the manager in the human resource department of a company. A judge acted as a recently hired receptionist at the company, and Feldman was challenged to explain to the receptionist how to use emotional intelligence to do one’s job effectively.
“This was my first time and everyone’s first time doing it, so we were in an event just for people doing it for the first time,” said Feldman. “The goal for us [is] to get to a point where we’re not just in the beginner [event] but coming in first place in the complicated events.”
Four of the DECA Club’s seven regional participants got awards at the event. EHS junior Mitchell Kronk achieved second place in his category, EHS sophomore Alexandra Kahn achieved first place in her category, EHS junior Anthony Sarro achieved fifth place in his category and Feldman took home second place in his category.
Besides getting more members involved in the club in the future, Feldman is interested in expanding the DECA Club into a full-fledged class at Edgemont.
“I feel that I have an interest in business but it’s very broad, it’s hard to know exactly what that is or what specific field I might be more interested in without actually learning about it and getting experience with that,” said Feldman. “Being able to get exposure to a bunch of different fields of business with this club is something that I would want from a class and I feel that a lot of people [in Edgemont] would be interested in that.”
Hosier said expanding the skills students learn from extracurricular activities into the classrooms is something the district is always looking at and the DECA Club itself is only just getting started.
“Is there a value to have this type of course at Edgemont? Certainly,” said Hosier. “If we have a really strong club that makes the likelihood of having a class even greater because it shows the student interest.”