ORRHS club does business training pandemic style

Dec 14, 2020

MATTAPOISETT — The world has changed rapidly since lockdowns began in March, and business has changed along with it. But the Old Rochester Regional High School DECA club is up for the challenge. 

The club teaches students how to be adaptive and proficient in business operations, focusing on skills like interview readiness and role-playing business situations. 

Amid the pandemic, that means teaching students how to transfer their business and communication skills to Zoom. 

For instance, handshakes aren’t possible over video calls, so club members have had to find other ways to communicate and greet effectively over Zoom. 

“It’s a silly thing, but I do miss it,” Club President Edward Gonet said.

Instead, the club has been working on keeping themselves and their hand gestures in-frame, since body language is harder to convey online. Some members have also started focusing on small talk as a stand-in for handshakes as another way to make a good first impression. 

Those handshakes, and other in-person gestures, are vital in many business situations, where first impressions can make or break candidate. Or in DECA’s case, make or break competition scores. 

But competition has been stymied by the pandemic, too. DECA was planning a trip to a competition in Boston, where members are judged on their business and communication aptitude. This year, competition is still up in the air. 

So the club is focusing on giving students a practical, real-world experience instead. 

“It’s really about the experience and getting to learn these things,” Gonet said. “It’s great to have the competition, but it’s really about the experience.”

And members of the club really appreciate learning how to succeed in business. 

“Figuring out how to answer questions as they’re being asked is exciting,” club member Theo Jacobson said. 

And for club members like Mack Wilson who don’t plan on going into business in college, the club gives an opportunity to pick up communications skills that are valuable in any industry.

“I can explore any passions that I have in business,” she said.

The club seems to be catching on, too. Gonet said the club has expanded to include a Junior High branch of DECA. And while some clubs at other schools have been struggling to retain participation from members, the OR DECA club is vibrant, with dozens of students attending the Zoom meetings. 

“We’re still giving kids as much of that DECA experience as we can,” club member Teddy Carroll said. 

It doesn’t hurt that Gonet secured a $2,000 grant for the club this year through the Tri-Town Education Foundation, either. 

“We’ve been more prepared” because of the grant, Gonet said. 

The club has been able to purchase materials like flashcards and practice exams with the grant money. And the money will be used to lower the cost of competition attendance, should the events happen this year. 

Whether the OR DECA club competes this year or not, they’re doing their best to give students the ability to succeed in the professional world.

“What we’re really about at DECA is giving students a real-life experience,” said Gonet.