Students in the DECA chapter at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs are encouraging their classmates, as well as local elementary school children and adults, to better recognize and exercise their choice to be happy.
The campaign, called The Habit of Happy, is the chapter’s yearly public relations project—one of six types of “chapter team event” projects in the high school division of DECA, an international student organization that primes students to be leaders and entrepreneurs in the realms of marketing, finance, hospitality and management.
The word HABIT is used both literally and as an acronym for helping, advocating, building, informing and transforming the community, and the campaign tagline is “The Power is in Your Hands!”
“A lot of our project is about perspective and the way to look at events, how they occur and how we can’t control everything that happens, but we can control how we react to it,” said Jesse Wildman, a 17-year-old senior and the chapter vice president of public relations. He co-founded the campaign with Adriana Gray, an 18-year-old senior and the chapter president.
Last month, the duo presented at meetings of the City of Coral Springs’ Customer Involved Government Committee and the Rotary Club of Coral Springs to a total of about 30 adults. They also hosted two back-to-back assemblies at their school, presenting before a total of more than 500 students.
“We talked about some ideas on how one can attain happiness, like giving back and helping others,” said Wildman, who plans to pursue a career in marketing.
Wildman and Gray are currently working with two elementary schools to present to fourth- and fifth-grade students.
The presentations include discussion and a PowerPoint targeted to each age group using information from sources such as the London-based movement Action for Happiness, as well as data compiled from surveys the chapter conducted.
Many of the Coral Glades DECA chapter’s almost 250 members helped Wildman and Gray survey about 200 high-schoolers and 200 fourth- and fifth-graders, along with some 150 adults.
“First question was, ‘Do you consider yourself happy?’ Then we had them rate their happiness on a scale of one to 10, and then we had a free response question and that was ‘Define happiness,'” said Wildman. “And that’s actually how we start all of our presentations is having people define it because, through the surveys, we’ve learned that people have an extremely difficult time actually defining it—putting it into words.”
The two assemblies at Coral Glades featured life coach Michael Schlossman as a guest speaker.
Not long ago, Schlossman was a practicing attorney and documentary filmmaker.
“From the outside everyone thought he had it great,” Wildman said. “He had a family, he had money, he had great jobs, but inside all he cared about was making money, making money, making money, and he truly wasn’t happy.”
Schlossman was so unhappy that he attempted suicide.
After surviving the attempt, he redirected his life and committed to helping others by sharing his story.
“His message to students was that it’s not about how much money you have and material items,” Wildman said.
With sponsorship from businesses like Spyder Graphics and Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet/Mazda, the chapter made campaign T-shirts, pens and string backpacks to distribute.
DECA members are also spreading the campaign via social media. They are shooting for a few hundred Facebook followers, Wildman said, and are already close to their goal of 1,000 followers on Twitter. He said he hopes to maintain the accounts even after wrapping the presentations.
Gray, who is planning to study either advertising or marketing in college, said that in leading the campaign she has learned a lot about human resilience—”how much we can take but still choose happiness … because there’s proof that so many people have so many battles but are still able to choose happiness.”
She added that the campaign is personal for her and Wildman, as they both have dealt with anxiety and depression.
The campaign also strikes a chord with the one of the chapter’s two advisors, Troy Meinders, who was reminded that life is short this year when he lost his dad and one of his sisters, who was 37, to cancer. He noted that cancer had already taken another one of his sisters when she was 8, and his mom when she was 39.
“Everyone is so caught up in the business of everyday life. Sometimes we forget to stop and think about what makes us happy—at all age levels,” said Meinders, who teaches marketing at Coral Glades. “… I think people need to focus more on being happy and making themselves happy.”
The chapter is entering the project into the public relations category for the DECA district competition, taking place in January, with the aim of eventually competing at the international level.
“The goal is to have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world,” Wildman said.
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