Emma Newman staff writer
At the DECA state career development conference, senior Matthew Allana, sophomore Hannah Khorrami and senior Leila Khorrami placed highly in their respective categories, allowing them to qualify for the international competition (ICDC).
Allana won first place overall for the third year in a row and Hannah and Leila Khorrami competed as a team, placing fourth overall at the state competition.
The competition, which took place from March 6 to 9 in Santa Clara, allowed students to see how businesses succeed in real life.
“The objective is to provide students with real-world experiences without the cost of having real world defeats,” DECA advisor John Johnson said. “This type of experience gives students the opportunity of saying how they would handle the stress of an impromptu life experience [of] making decisions.”
There are many aspects of the conference that demonstrate this goal. In addition to the competition portion, students learned about career and college options in different workshops.
In order to be successful in the competition itself, students had to prepare for an exa, that tested their knowledge of different DECA topics, role plays that reflected the work of actual businesses and presentations that included posters and PowerPoints.
“To prepare, you study role plays, you study concepts, and you go over in your mind how you’re going to prepare with a partner or by yourself to address certain options and you get feedback from the instructors,” Johnson said.
Hannah’s practice for the conference allowed her to succeed without having a difficult time.
“If you put in [the] effort to just prepare yourself and practice [and], if you do a couple practice role plays and get in the right mindset, it’s honestly not hard, ” Hannah said.
However, she was still surprised with her competition win because she and her sister did not place high in any individual categories.
“I was really surprised that we got fourth overall because, honestly, the algorithm for how they choose the winners is really confusing,” Hannah said. “Even though we didn’t place for the test or the roleplay, we ended up getting fourth overall, which is really shocking.”
Allana prepared by using study resources and a DECA website called Competition University. He also had to plan for the conference outside of the competition, as he was the vice president of Southern California DECA until his term ended after the event. As a state officer, he was in charge of many aspects of the conference, including handing out awards.
“My term ended at the end of the conference, but since I was a state officer, I did a lot to prepare to actually run the conference,” Allana said. “[This] included writing scripts for the different sessions and rehearsing and helping execute a lot of our initiatives.”
However, Allana did not prepare as much as possible because, unlike previous years, he was not trying to qualify for ICDC. In fact, he had already decided before the conference took place that he would not be attending the international conference.
Allana wishes he could go to the conference, but he is unable to due to conflicts with his Harvard admission and AP testing, as well as the financial burden of the conference. Regardless, he is happy with his time at DECA and wants to end his senior year with the success of this conference.
“I would like to go [to ICDC] because I would be able to see so many of my friends across the state and country, but I’m not going because I feel like I ended my DECA career on a good note with this state conference,” Allana said.
His struggles to attend the next conference are similar to the challenges that other Beverly students faced, who came to the conference in smaller numbers than previous years.
Some of the students didn’t attend for financial reasons, while others did not want to go because they were underclassmen and therefore had less of a desire to compete, according to Johnson.
“You have an opportunity to say, ‘I want to do this this year.’ Each year, students exercise the right to say, ‘I’ve got some other interests,’” Johnson said. “That evolution is just part of the high school experience.”
Johnson still views Allana’s participation as a great achievement.
“Whether or not he goes to international competition, he’s decided, ‘This is my legacy. I’m always going to compete at the highest level, and you will remember me being up on stage consistently giving my all,’” Johnson said.
Johnson is also proud of Leila and Hannah, who placed at their first state competition as an entrepreneurship team.
“To watch them come together to trust themselves, to feed off of each other’s understanding and see the joy that came on their face when they realized they qualified outright was really a lot of fun,” Johnson said.
Hannah and Allana both think that their success was due to their confidence. For Khorrami, this wasn’t just because of preparation, but because of appearing confident during her presentation, which she said people can and still appear prepared. On the other hand, Allana thinks that he was confident because of his wide range of experience, which allowed him to succeed in the competition without stressing.
“It gave me a good sense of knowledge to use on my test,” Allana said. “It allowed me to fully experience the competition without being as worried about the results because I knew that I had prepared in the last three years and that would enable me to succeed.”