The DECA Depot, Elk River High School’s School-Based Enterprise: Laying the foundations for Youth Leadership

The DECA Depot, Elk River High School’s School-Based Enterprise: Laying the foundations for  Youth Leadership Main Photo

2 Feb 2023


Youth leadership works towards the development of young people, where they gain the skills and knowledge necessary to lead civic engagement, education reform, and community organizing activities. Young people can be guided to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood and achieve their full potential. Youth leadership is all about mentoring, training, and coaching youth to be prepared for future roles or events which might need their leadership skill and experience.

The DECA Depot, Elk River High School's original School-Based Enterprise

The DECA Depot, Elk River High School's original School-Based Enterprise (SBE) has grown to four locations over the past decade including the original brick-and-mortar location inside of the school, The SWAGON mobile store, The SHOP Downtown holiday pop-up, and an online store. We spoke to Sonja Weiler, Business Teacher, DECA Advisor, and Marketing Operations at Elk River High School:

SWAGON, the mobile store: The SWAGON is an enclosed trailer modified to serve as a mobile store. The SWAGON allows our chapter to bring our merchandise outside our brick-and-mortar store to sporting and community events such as farmers' markets and parades.  This has allowed our store to be recognized in the community.  While not out at an event The SWAGON is parked outside our school building where students are able to inventory and restock it for the next event. 

The SHOP Downtown began as a DECA Sales Project and has now become an annual event.  Each November and December Elk River DECA rents retail space at a local salon, Salon on Main, in our downtown business area and is open three nights and Saturday mornings weekly.  The SHOP is staffed with students from the School Store Management course and our chapter's SBE Interns (younger students interested in being a part of the store management class in the future).  Specialty merchandise designed with the general city and state logos, along with merchandise from our brick-and-mortar location inside the school, is used to stock the store.  The SHOP allows the DECA Depot to expand its reach further into the community catering to alumni back in town visiting family and tourists passing through.

The Swagon and the Shop: Playing a vital role during the pandemic

Both, The SWAGON and The SHOP played an integral part in our SBE pivot during the Pandemic.  When Elk River High School did not allow visitors, The SWAGON was parked outside the school for shoppers to shop outside at a safe distance.  The SHOP allowed for operation outside the school building and school day using state-mandated COVID protocols established for retail stores.  Both experiences taught students the value of flexibility and the ability to pivot during tough times.

Other projects at the high school

Throughout the school year, DECA Members work with various businesses and nonprofits within the community on various projects/events.  Some service events include serving at various dinners with the American Legion, partnering with Gifts Anonymous' annual toy drive, hosting food collection events for CAER, and working with the Downtown Elk River Business Association (DERBA) during Halloween and holiday events.  We also work with local businesses and appreciate their mentorship on various projects including start-up business plans, integrated marketing campaigns, financial literacy, and marketing research projects.  We are fortunate to be in a community that supports Career and Technical Education and is willing to help students expand their learning in a real-world setting.  Students demonstrate their learning in a competitive district, state, and international environment.  Our projects consistently place at the top at all levels.

Sonja Weiler: On developing the youth  of today for a better future

“It is my belief that strong communities build strong leaders.  The Elk River community supports our program and is helping build the future leaders of Elk River.  It is rewarding for me as an educator to see former students leave Elk River to further their education and return as active community members and business leaders.”