Ballinger High School DECA fueled by donations
Christy Zhuang, a junior at Ballinger High School, is President of the Ballinger High School DECA chapter. DECA is a business and marketing club the students participate in to help prepare them for life in the business world after high school, “I’ve always been shy. If I was a freshman, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you. DECA has taught me how to communicate with people,” Zhuang says.
Zhuang isn’t just the President of the school’s chapter, she’s also the District 9 President, and she owns her own business, “I own Christy Zhuang photography. Since I photograph people I don’t normally interact with, DECA has helped me with my communication, as well as my business plan. It has really helped me become more social and helped me with my business.”
One aspect where Zhuang says DECA has helped most is in finances, “I’ve learned how to budget money, how much I can spend, how much I can’t spend, and what I should spend my money on. I also have a 5-year plan. It’s nice to have those life skills whether you go into the business field or not. Those are important skills.”
It’s not just the financial side that DECA helps Zhuang and others with,”It helps with my own time management.”
Zhuang is also running for state office in DECA. In addition to participating in DECA and running her own photography business, she also participates in FCCLA, Rotary Interact, Theater Arts Fall Production, One-Act play, National Honor Society, Investment Club, Junior Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Lone Star Leadership Alumni Council. Zhuang is also a football trainer, track manager, and participates on the Local Advisory Council. As for her work in the community, the industrious high school junior has racked up over 500 hours of Community Service, “I’m really focused on the community. DECA embodies everything that I like. Our chapter won a national award for community service.”
The DECA members all have several different interests outside of the club, many of them running their own businesses. Members Carter Arrott, Briley Clinton, and Trevor Gibbs started their own t-shirt business, “Crappie Collection.” The business is sponsored by the State of Texas 4-H, which some of the DECA students, including Gibbs, are active members of.
There are approximately 11,000 DECA students in Texas. When you include the international DECA students, there are around 225,000 students enrolled in the program in the US, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Germany. At Ballinger High School, over 40 students are enrolled in the program. They also have 3 advisors.
On February 23-26, the DECA students will travel to nationals in Houston, and then head to Atlanta, Georgia for the International competition in April. Ballinger has 41 students competing in the national championships. Of those 4-dozen students, 37 will be heading to compete in Georgia.
BISD DECA advisor and high school teacher, Lisa Gibbs, says that the contests aren’t easy, at any level, “You must provide a 20-page paper and give a 15 minute presentation. The contestants are also given a role play scenario and must solve the problem presented. Additionally, they take a 100-question test.”
The students do not know the role play scenario prior to entering the event, thus they must be able to think quickly and problem-solve on the fly.
The cost after traveling to various competitions is eye-opening, especially when you consider that the group relies mostly on donations from family and friends, “It costs around $15,000 to compete just in Nationals,” says Gibbs.
That amount doesn’t include internationals. When you’re counting 37 students and 3 advisors, that’s 40 people for travel, hotel, food, entry fees, etc. The numbers add up quickly when you’re taking 41 students and 3 advisors to Houston, then heading to Georgia with 37 students and 3 advisors a mere 2-months later. There are 4 days of hotel rooms, food, travel, and entry fees for 44 students and advisors in Houston, then they do it again for at least 4 nights 2-months later for 40 people in Georgia.
Most of the funds come from DECA’s own fundraising endeavors, such as a golf tournament and painting Bearcats paw prints at homes and businesses around Ballinger. Gibbs said that the school provides about $3,000 to the program, “The district is great about helping to support us, it’s just that it costs a lot of money, so that’s why we also have to rely on donations, including from friends and family.”
It’s obvious that many of the DECA members are self-motivated students, working tirelessly to get the best out of themselves under the encouragement and guidance of their advisors. The students are close, a tight-knit group helping each other improve as they travel around to competitions.
When the students and advisors aren’t on the road to competitions, rehearsing presentations to each other in hotel rooms, motivating each other prior to walking into the judging arena, they’re back here working diligently on their own fundraising efforts to help fund their travels and expenses. Each student in the chapter holds themselves accountable to the other students, doing their fair share of the hard work to raise those funds.
Zhuang takes her job as chapter president and area president seriously. DECA is not a club with just a figurehead going through the motions and a few active members carrying the club. Ballinger High School DECA is a driven group of people, led by a junior who is in constant motion and advisors who share their students’ passion for business and marketing.
As mentioned previously, Zhuang is in the running for state office, just another challenge that the vibrant and industrious high school junior readily pursues while leading others. Zhuang will graduate in 2023, but one thing is for sure, there is always another DECA member ready to step up and accept the mantle of leadership. All of the club officers take their DECA chapter with the utmost seriousness in their journey on the trail of business and marketing.
If you’d like to help out the DECA program in their efforts to raise funds for their comptetions, you can email: Gibbs at: Lisa.Gibbs@BallingerISD.net. You can also contact Ballinger High School, 325-365-3547.