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DECA Advocacy

September 3, 2022 at 8:41:47 AM

The importance to give back to the community

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As an international organization dedicated to preparing emerging leaders in the business world, DECA has always prioritized the importance of giving back to the community. More specifically, DECA strongly values advocacy—the act of supporting causes that range from spreading knowledge to creating new opportunities to empowering students to explore their interests.

My name is Jaisnav Rajesh and I served as the 2021-22 Illinois DECA President. During this year, we as the State Action Team were awarded the DECA Advocacy IMPACT Award for being the state with the most impactful advocacy efforts. From meeting with Congressional Representatives to connecting with business leaders to increasing funding for Career and Technical Student Organizations, I am so excited to share our journey with you!

At the beginning of our term, we the State Action Team understood legislative meetings would be the most effective way of advocating for our causes. In November, I was given the opportunity to meet with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regarding the revitalization of Career and Technical Education in post-pandemic educational environments. Through open discussion, I was informed about the lack of awareness and limited funding for CTE statewide. Tasked with developing a solution, we crafted expansion proposals that would enable more students to explore the CTE space.

Going further, we as a team wanted to directly meet and work with the policymakers that oversaw these educational programs. In December, I was able to secure a meeting with Representative Lauren Underwood. As a proponent of expanding educational resources, she stated:

“Every child deserves a high-quality education at safe and supportive schools. Teachers and administrators deserve to have the resources they need to educate the next generation."

Having already found an official that supported our cause, our confidence to reach out to other Congress Members only increased. Next, I contacted Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi and Representative Danny Davis for an in-person meeting in January. With both agreeing to meet, we had a productive conference where we focused on the re-authorization and expansion of Perkins V funds nationally for CTSOs. These funds provide the opportunity for students to explore, choose, and follow career and technical education programs of study and career pathways to earn credentials of value. After illuminating the current funding issue facing schools and highlighting the positive impacts of CTE education, both re-affirmed their commitments to keep fighting to bolster Perkins V funds.

In February, VP of Philanthropy Kris Yun and I met with Rep. Brad Schneider to continue spreading awareness of Career and Technical Education opportunities. In our meeting, we each described how CTE had impacted us personally and emphasized how it made us not only better students but also better leaders. By the end of the hour, we had both his backing and a pledge to educate more students about CTE through weekly newsletters and district announcements.

Finally, right before the State Conference, I gave a speech to Rep. Bill Foster and numerous state officials about the importance of grant expansion. Energized, many of them volunteered to speak to students in their respective areas about exploring CTSOs. At a similar time, VP of Public Relations Bibiane Kan spoke at the Illinois Coordinating Council for Career & Technical Student Organization meeting to increase CTE grant funding.

As our team won an international DECA award and I was named as a 2022 Career and Technical Education Presidential Scholar, we all understand the importance of the work we conducted; however, we still recognize there is more work to be done. Hopefully, our journey inspires you to be an advocate and leader within your community. We look forward to watching Illinois DECA continue leading the charge and making a national difference!

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