Covering the fall of AHS DECA and the factors that played a role in its demise
Sahana Narayan & Karyle Agno
It’s the cycle of life at American: the rise and eventual fall of AHS clubs. Whether the fall is at the hands of the notorious AHS club committee, the strong foot of AHS administration, or some mysterious other factor, clubs can leave as fast as they come at this school. This year’s victim?
The former powerhouse that is American DECA.
DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), an organization focused on marketing and entrepreneurship education for students, is well known and quite successful across the national student community. However, here at American, DECA carries an infamous history as a club, having been disbanded a few years ago following a disqualification at a competition.
“I know DECA has faced quite a bit of problems in the past, especially with maintaining our chapter,” reflects Tamanna Malhotra (12), a former co-president of DECA.
“But it was definitely not to the extent that it is this year,” she adds.
According to ex-executives, DECA’s past issues are not connected to the problems 2022 has brought for the chapter. “A lot of our past issues have revolved around students and members, but for the first time we had to face an advisor situation,” Malhotra says.
The desperate hunt to find a club advisor is not a rare occurrence at this school; Caden Kwon (12), the Committee Head of the AHS clubs committee, knows the situation all too well.
“Because of the teacher shortage, a lot of clubs are under one teacher or they’re just scrambling to get an advisor that may not be fully aware of the situation or can’t live up to the responsibilities of it all, but they just accepted because they’re pressured to. And then what we end up seeing is that they’re not signing off on their meeting minutes. They’re not available to supervise meetings,” he explains.
As many teachers become overwhelmed with club procedural tasks, it can be even more difficult to find one willing to go above and beyond. DECA, however, is a club that requires that level of commitment.
Former AHS DECA club advisor Ms. Leonarduzzi shares, “I needed to be present for the weekly club meetings, of course. And then for DECA specifically, I basically acted as the travel agent because they had three major competitions. I was very instrumental in planning those trips and making sure we had the payments on time and that they were sent to the right people.”
She adds, “Historically, DECA has been a hard club to find an advisor for because of all those added responsibilities and trips that come with the position.”
“At the end of last year, I had too much on my plate, so I stepped down. We were trying to look for that person, but it was difficult to find because it would have to be someone who isn’t an official DECA person like me,” Leonarduzzi says.
Finding a regular club advisor was not the only challenge DECA was facing; the DECA organization also requires that each school chapter specifically have a CTE (Certified Technical Education) Advisor. At American, that would typically be an ROP teacher.
Former co-president Vidhi Chellani (12) explains that, “Up till last year, Ms. Reggio, an entrepreneurship teacher, was signing off on our papers because she is approved as an advisor. But because of personal reasons, she could not attend conferences so Ms. Leo stepped up as a substitute advisor. That’s how it’s worked for the past few years, but this year, that wasn’t able to happen.”
Having known about the potential disbandment of the club since last May, Chellani and Malhotra were determined to solve the issue before the official year started.
Chellani shares, “First, we approached the DECA student state council and asked who they think we should contact about this situation. From there, we talked to the adult figures in DECA and went back and forth with them a little bit. We explained to them why the current CTEs at our school can’t do it, since we only have two. In the summer, we approached teachers in our district, explained to them the situation, and asked them if they could potentially be our advisor. They all denied.”
Malhotra adds, “Our main focus was that when the new culinary teacher came in, we would ask him to be our advisor. On the first day of school, we talked to the culinary teacher and he was completely on board.”
“But he, administration, and MVROP collectively decided that he could not advise us for the first year,” Chellani mentions.
The situation prompted the former presidents to appeal to other organizations.
“We’ve actually been in constant talk with our own school administration, and they’ve been talking to MVROP and the DECA organization too. So it’s like a three-way triangle going on, ” Chellani says.
“Although they are incredibly sad that DECA will not continue, especially since it gives our school name and recognition, they have to follow the rules.”
When asked about the future of AHS DECA, Chellani and Malhotra are set on not letting the year go to waste.
“We are trying our hardest to re-register the club as a new name so that we can continue to hold meetings and teach the students the essential business knowledge for future DECA years,” says Chellani.
And although Kwon is limited in helping solve the advisor situation at DECA, he is open to a charter under a new name. “In this case, I would be willing to accept DECA’s charter if they were to not be DECA.”
The DECA team hope that whether through registering a new club or conference education, they will leave AHS DECA in a position to continue succeeding in the future. Malhotra shares, “We’re still working towards giving our members the knowledge they deserve. We haven’t given up yet.”