DECA Nationals 2014

Making it Count

DECA Nationals 2014 so much to do…so little time. It’s easy to see why the event is headlined with a motivating and challenging

Spirited Co-advisor

Spirited Co-advisor

slogan: Make it Count. Our flight touched down in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday afternoon, and we hit the ground running. Our adrenaline was pumping — this was my real-life version of one of my favorite reality TV shows, The Amazing Race. In other words, I had a general idea about what to do I just had to execute. Thankfully, I had the help of airport signage and my three eager students…plus Suri.

We successfully picked up our bags at the luggage claim and hitched a monorail to rent a car. Life lesson number one: if the price is not right then exhaust every resource possible. I wasn’t about to pay full price, but when the total without a reservation was close to $700 I was about to not pay at all. A few Internet searches with the smartphone and voila — two minutes later the price was significantly slashed like a flat tire.  We had a set of wheels that turned out to be more precious than gold as the week went on.

DECA backdrop

Participant’s view from section 127 – go PA!

One of NFL’s former golden quarterbacks lead DECA participants on a touchdown drive at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. Frank Tarkenton was the keynote speaker at Opening Ceremonies. Post football career, Tarkenton is an entrepreneur enthusiast. Personally, I enjoyed his energy — he is one enthusiastic man! His message was laced with sports analogies which kept my interest because I am a big sports fan. The takeaway was that business is not as much about making money as it is serving people. Everyone can draw their own conclusion as to what this means, but my interpretation is that we need to take care of each other and pay it forward. (Sidebar: So, it was also fitting that one of the forms of entertainment was the America’s Got Talent finalists, Chicago Boyz.)

It pays to have a sports background, especially when you’re at a competition. Our gold medal winner (from states) found herself in a pickle during registration on Sunday. As I was driving to Turner Field with my Giant’s fan student, we received a phone call from the student who was competing. The presentation wasn’t in the proper binder. What!? I attempted my first out of state u-turn and channeled a combination of characteristics: my The Amazing Race aspiring contestant and former athlete in overtime with the game on the line. Mission: get to the Georgia Dome. I parked illegally and set my (Giant’s fan) student’s expectation that this will not be a quick trip, but that I needed her to stay with the car. In the event it had to be moved she had to say no and remain firm with her decision because I was the only one legally allowed to drive the rental car.

I ran inside the Georgia World Congress Center which is next door to the Dome. Mission: to purchase a binder. Apparently 2,500 people needed to do the same thing because they were all sold out. As I said before…exhaust every resource. I scurried up the escalator like a squirrel and ran like a dog to store #2. The vendors and DECA staff had nothing. I phoned my co-advisor for some consulting. As I was on the phone with her I spotted a woman with an elusive binder. I immediately disconnected the call. I stopped the woman and asked her if she needed it — she hesitated. So, I did what any desperate person would do…I offered her $10 in cash, which was more than triple the asking rate. She accepted and I dashed outside, ran through a small gap in pedestrian gating and zig-zagged down this (and that) ramp to section 127 of Georgia Dome to meet my student who was anxiously waiting. Phone calls were exchanged with every party involved and just under the time limit, my student’s binder was submitted. Thankfully, we were not eliminated from the race. So, we regrouped and it was then time to take me and my patiently waiting Giant’s fan out to the ball game.

The Varsity

The Varsity – the service was barely at the junior varsity level, but our dinner was delicious and the hats are awesome! The trek to and from was laced with learning experiences:

1. GPS is only as effective as the user’s input
2. Eight lanes of highway equals a big, friggin’ highway
3. Patience is a virtue
4. Losing money makes you feel defeated
5. Karma trumps all
Nonetheless, if we were facing mountain-sized obstacles then it was time for us to take things more literally…

Stone Mountain is a beautiful place just outside of Atlanta. It is the state’s most visited tourist spot, and according to our Mountain Top View tour-guide, it is one of the biggest attractions in the nation. In addition to the amazing views, there are other activities to write home about.

Cherokee Trail

It was the perfect morning for a hike filled with sights and recreation.  First, we ventured away from the mountain towards the plantain before we headed for the big stone. We wanted to absorb as much as we could and a detour was suffice.  Retracing our tracks, we headed to the Cherokee Trail. Hikes are fun. Nature has a way of grounding you — seeing a snake let us know that we were in another species’ territory. With the stone in our sights, we set out for an entertaining journey.

I put my photo tricks to the test with my three subjects. I snapped some jump shots, a casual pose sitting on the railroad tracks, a footpath that focused “solely” on the shoes, and a group shot in front of history’s most influential men: Robert E. Lee, Thomas Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. The Confederate Memorial is breath taking. Honestly, the marketing teacher in

The Confederate Memorial

The Confederate Memorial

me only went a few years back in history to the Old Spice commercial where the actor famously coined the phrase, “Look at my horse, now back at me…now back at my horse.” Perhaps our favorite picture was the hand sandwich or the high fiving of the tower (illusion photo at its finest). Nonetheless, our scrapbooks are forever touched with a mountain of stories to share for today, tomorrow and in years to come.

The view from the top is better on a mountain. Later that night I went downtown and hitched a ride on the Sky View (Ferris wheel), which is located across from Centennial Olympic Park. The night time ambiance seemed well suited for couples celebrating a romantic evening out on the town. In fact, there is a wine and beer service as well as a photo op for a “priceless” keepsake. Waiting in line, I was sandwiched between two romantic couples, yet I am not embarrassed to admit that I rode

Atlanta's Ferris Wheel

Atlanta’s Ferris Wheel

solo as a tourist. The experience was alright — I was glad to have done it but it’s not a bucket list attraction. The wheel circled three times and cost a memorable $14.58. It was nice being greeted by horses at the exit. I think it served more as a tourist trap, but that didn’t stop me from taking a picture of the Cinderella-looking carriage.

The belle of the ball had her heart broken at the mini awards on Tuesday morning. Our DECA Financial Literacy Project competitor was not called upon as a finalist. Her heart was quickly mended with a shot of espresso from Starbucks and retail therapy was appropriately substituted with sight-seeing.

The World of Coke truly opened happiness for me. I was in my element surrounded by marketing, fun facts, entertainment, and some baseball. The Open Happiness ad campaign tugged at my heart strings — it was tastefully done! Another part that stands out was the

The American Idol couch

The American Idol couch

4-D presentation titled, The Secret Formula. The audience sat in a theatre where the seats simulated back and forth movement. We also got sprayed with air and water depending on the script.  My favorite part was getting poked in the back by a “bug.” I’m not going to lie, I screamed…the tourist sitting next to me had a good laugh and so did I. Likewise,  I was absorbed by other attractions such as The American Idol couch. And finally, my daily baseball fix was satisfied by the Turner Field exhibit. It was a home run.

The Georgia State Aquarium was a fun exhibit, too. A theatrical performance called A Dolphin’s Tale captured my heart. I also enjoyed shopping for knick-knacks in the retail store. I didn’t get the opportunity to explore some of the finer parts of the aquarium, so I don’t really have a rave review to share. In hindsight, each of the aforementioned are worthy of spending more time at…perhaps more than just two hours each (I could have done half a day touring The World of Coke).

The section below are some personal reflections followed by each of the student’s pit and peak(s) from the trip:

I learned a lot about high school students on this field trip just as I do everyday when I teach:

1. I am marveled by the amount of selfies they take. It’s not about the sight or scene, it is about as many people that fit in their phone’s lens and then the photo is labeled with a hashtag and placed on social media outlets. There is no rhyme or reason as to which one, but it seems as though all of them were used, from Snapchat to Facebook. I gave it a whirl and I am convinced that it is, indeed, a skill!

2. I have genuine concerns about the people who walk and talk and/or text simultaneously. It seems hazardous…just a hunch.

3.  In passing, I asked a high school DECA participant where she was headed on the shuttle. She looked at me as if I had four heads. I responded by saying, “Would it be easier if I texted you?” Sometimes, I swear, we fail to communicate just as much as we over communicate.

4. Finding an electrical  outlet to charge a cell phone is a sport. I witnessed students scour the exterior of a building to find a receptacle to charge their precious life lines. It can only be described as ridiculously insane yet somewhat amazing (kind of gives me hope — they do have survival skills after all).

5. One of my students expressed more emotion of excitement after seeing a lady walking a cat on a leash than she did anything else on the trip. Really?  She now has eight lives.

There are a lot of signs of hope at the DECA events. I may poke fun or just state the obvious about the next generation, but when you witness them in the heat of competition you believe in them and in their future…our future. It’s quite surreal and difficult to describe in words, but to use a former advertising slogan from Atlanta’s residential soda experts, you can’t beat the real thing!

Pits: elevators, aquarium, not making finals
Peaks: the aquarium and ball game, Stone Mountain, the weather, country concert, walking around on top of Stone Mountain