High school kids rock. Especially the ones I had the pleasure of meeting last week at the Massachusetts State DECA Conference in downtown Boston. DECA is an organization that aims to empower young people to pursue careers in marketing, management, and entrepreneurship through education and leadership development events. 185,000 high schools students participate through 5,000 chapters across the U.S.
Along with my colleagues, Jeremy Butler (DECA alumni) and Jon Kay, I served as a judge in the Entrepreneurship category and Grasshopper donated scholarships for the top three participants in our category. The scholarships we gave will help out the winners of our category with travels costs for the DECA National conference. Over the course of three days, we each heard from between ten and fifteen groups of young entrepreneurs who pitched us their entrepreneurial ventures. Their businesses ranged from internet properties to landscaping companies and everything in between. The vast majority were outstanding.
We were also given the opportunity to do a couple of workshops on Friday afternoon. Jonathan presented on generating buzz and Jeremy and I teamed up for a workshop on the basics of ecommerce. The workshops were well received, but at that point I think our audience was ready to go to the pool or go shopping.
These were some of the most ambitious, smart, and outstanding young people I’ve met in a long time. When I was 18, I was, well, not doing anything close to what these kids are achieving. I was impressed by not only the events’ organization and production quality, but also by the sheer size. 2000 high school students, parents, and teachers from around Massachusetts packed into the function room for the final award ceremony. Donna McFadden, the Mass State Advisor, did an outstanding job organizing the event and made sure we had a front row seats for the awards and the playing of Grasshopper’s Entrepreneurs Can Change the World video.
As a first-time participant at DECA, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and look forward to participating next year. I'd be willing to bet that some of these kids will go on to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and that I'll be reading about them in a few years. Also, congratulations to all of the students who made it to the National Conference in Kentucky. We just might see you there.