SoCal DECA is in Good ‘Company’ with Vice President SJ Janolkar


Shaina Taebi

Junior SJ Janolkar prepares for the DECA state competition with fellow Business Club members. After winning district vice president through a lengthy application and election process, Janolkar will be inaugurated at DECA state, which takes place March 3-6.

When junior SJ Janolkar transferred to Portola High in her sophomore year, she had no idea that she would soon become well-versed in creating income and cash flow statements, balance sheets and other financial documents, much less become the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) vice president of the Southern California chapter.

Upon joining Virtual Enterprise, Janolkar discovered Portola High’s DECA chapter as one of the business-related extracurricular activities offered.

“It was when I really found out what I wanted to major in and grow interested in,” Janolkar said. “In the past, I’ve always been someone who’s really loud and a big talker, and being in DECA allowed me to channel that energy towards something that’s actually productive.”

The selection and election process for Janolkar’s vice president candidacy began in December 2022 after she submitted an application. Janolkar and other candidates gave speeches during the voting session at the end of the 2023 District Career Development Conference on Jan. 6-8, winning by a majority.

“The speech was very moving, about watching her older brother compete in DECA when she was younger and seeing all the opportunities it gave him,” Virtual Enterprise teacher and business club adviser Katherine Dillon said.

In the past, I’ve always been someone who’s really loud and a big talker, and being in DECA allowed me to channel that energy towards something that’s actually productive.

— SJ Janolkar

According to Janolkar, the competitions are an opportunity to express herself through improv. Janolkar said that her involvement in DECA instilled improvisation skills such as practicing for roleplays and taught her valuable financial skills, as the competitions allow for a real-life application of leadership and entrepreneurship.

“I credit a lot to my seniors who were here last year,” Janolkar said. “Now that they’re all in college, they’ve been cheering me on, and they’ve been great supporters, even now as a junior. Especially with my adviser, who is an amazing, amazing person; I could not have done anything and I could not have been who I am today without her.”

As the new Southern California DECA vice president, Janolkar’s main responsibilities consist of overseeing the region’s school chapters and planning mini-conferences. Dillon said Janolkar’s willingness to help and lead others makes her the perfect fit for her position.

“For these district and national competitions, you have to write speeches and help adults in the planning process of the event,” Janolkar said. “You’re really bringing the students’ voice to the board of DECA — making your voice heard for what change we want to see in DECA.”

Janolkar said that although the Southern California DECA chapters are not very strong due to their smaller sizes, she would like to see the region grow as a whole; her goal is for at least seven people to qualify for the international conference this year in Florida on April 22-24, after the DECA state competition March 3-6.

“She has moved around a lot, so she’s really good at making new connections and talking to people that she doesn’t know,” Dillon said. “She’s very organized and very focused on getting things done. A lot of people like to come up with ideas and make plans, but she’s really good at actually executing them.”