Foothill DECA’s Stephanie Yu graduated this year, and as she reflects on the impact that DECA has had on her life and high school career, she explores the DECA journey that shaped her into the person she is today. Her story is an eloquent portrayal of “I am DECA”!
By: Stephanie Yu, Foothill DECA
As a child, I was a sore loser. With red eyes and wet cheeks, I swept the chessboard clean, always sending chess figures soaring to the floor as my sister announced, “Checkmate.” When I grew older, I shrugged off these supposed failures, concluding that I would never be good enough. With an overwhelming fear of failure and belief that winning was everything, I eventually came to avoid participating in competitions whenever possible to protect my self-esteem.
When I first heard about DECA, the competitive business club, I immediately refused to join. Being unversed in business and rather unconfident in public speaking, the thought of competing terrified me. However, upon enrollment in a business class my junior year as an alternative to another elective, my teacher and DECA advisor constantly emphasized the benefits of DECA to me. With encouragement from my mother and DECA advisor, I decided to join, viewing this as an opportunity to develop my public speaking skills and overcome my fear. For three months, my two partners and I devoted all our energy and time into our International Business Plan (IBP) project. We lived and breathed IBP, all desperately wanting to qualify for the International competition. My initial fears and doubts of achieving such a hard feat vanished with the confidence, enthusiasm, and support my partners and fellow teammates exhibited.
After rehearsing our presentation until we could recite it in our sleep, my partners and I were prepared. Seated before a judge, we thoroughly explained our business proposal and answered her questions without hesitation. Then the moment for which we had been anticipating arrived: awards night at the DECA State competition. For someone who could not find any meaning in dressing up for school spirit days, I had suddenly become the loudest cheerleader. Seated among my friends, teammates, and thousands of other students passionate about business, I soaked in and became lost in the room’s contagious energy. Screaming until my voice became as sore as my clapping hands, I proudly watched as chapter teammates walked on stage to receive their awards. After what seemed like centuries, my partners and I were finally called up as finalists for IBP. Jumping up from our seats, we rushed through the dark mass of arms and legs to the blinding brilliance of the awards stage, noting the intensified excitement in our friends and chapter teammates’ cheers. Awaiting the announcement of the top four winners, I found myself with teeth clenched hard in my jaw, knuckles white from gripping my partners’ hands, heart beating out of my chest, and eyes focused on my black flats.
Fourth place was called, followed by third, second, and first. All winners stepped forward to receive their awards, but I did not move. Lifting my head to the shadows of the audience, I clapped my hands and exited the stage. Before I sat down in disappointment, a teammate greeted me with a handshake, congratulating me on my success. Several other teammates did the same, telling me with wide smiles how proud they were of my achievement. I had been in a state of shock and confusion, but now I slowly grinned.
I had realized life was not about winning, that success was measured by my own accomplishments and not through a comparison to others’ achievements. I came so close to winning by overcoming personal challenges, and doing so made me a winner. A few months back, I could not have imagined presenting my project to a judge with the newfound confidence I now had. Hearing and reciprocating my teammates’ cheers of support, I realized we came to compete as a chapter, not as individual representatives of our school. Although only a few of us carried trophies home, we all wore smiles that night because as a team celebrating the achievement of others made us all winners. Checkmate. No award could make me feel more victorious.