Students to startups: How these DECA girls are bridging the gap

Less than ten years ago, the common sentiment around soon-to-be-graduated highschoolers in North Dakota was “I can’t wait to get out of here.” The “brain drain,” as it was called, resulted in less students staying and building lives here in North Dakota. But something is shifting. In a recent article by the Forum titled “Plugging the brain drain”, they reported that more than ever students are choosing to stay after graduation.

Three girls from South Fargo Higschool, Lynna Ngo, Lauren Sturlaugson and Neha Patel, see the Fargo-Moorhead startup community as a big reason to stay. To showcase this community, the three girls are launching their second annual Be Bold conference this week. The event is geared towards plugging higschoolers into the Fargo-Moorhead startup community.

“I believe that students will want to stay in the Fargo-Moorhead Area for college, after seeing Fargo’s entrepreneurial community,” said Neha, the lead organizer of the group. “That community welcomes anyone and everyone interested in making Fargo a better place!”

Be Bold Team(1)

Lynna, Lauren and Neha

The conference will kick off at 1 Million Cups on Wednesday, where the girls are emceeing the event. The student attendees will then tour startups on Broadway, hear three TEDx style talks at the Prairie Den, tour Blackbird Woodfire, and participate in a create-your-own-business activity.

The Be Bold conference debuted last year with over 60 student attendees from highschools across the region. Afterwards, a survey yielded almost only positive responses, Neha said.

“Most of the students thought that the Be Bold Conference was one of the most interesting and unique conferences that they had ever attended,” she said.

Be Bold 2015

Neha and a few other girls originally designed the event as a project for DECA, a worldwide non-profit organization implemented in high schools and colleges with a mission to create young leaders and entrepreneurs. In addition to the positive response, the girls received ‘Finalist’ at the DECA International Career Development Conference in Orlando.

“This means that our project was in the top 10% of all projects who had competed in our event,” Neha said.

Neha is now a senior at Fargo South Highschool, but said she hopes to continue the Be Bold Conference through younger DECA memebrs.

“I hope that this project is continued, as it is a great way for high school students to become connected with the entrepreneurial community in Fargo,” she said.

Here’s more about the girls! We asked why they think highschoolers should get plugged into the startup community, as well as how they are personally connected as well.

Meet the girls!

Lynna Ngo (11th grade)

Lynna Ngo

Lynna (left)

Why should highschoolers engage with the local startup community?

Students should get plugged into the startup community because it will expose them to the fantastic things Fargo-Moorhead has to offer! Attending entrepreneurial events such as 1 Million Cups can truly open students’ perspectives on what really goes on in the local area. It can also connect students with experienced individuals who seem more than willing to support and help each other out. Personally, being engaged in the startup community has allowed me to learn and develop networking and professional skills.

How did you get involved with the startup community?

I became involved by being in DECA; a high school organization dedicated to learning about business related to marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship. I became aware of DECA by following my older sister’s footsteps where she was highly involved in the club when I entered high school. After attending last year’s BE BOLD conference, I felt inspired and wanted to further immerse myself in Fargo’s entrepreneurial community. I reached out to the three girls who organized the BE BOLD conference last year, and they encouraged me to attend 1 Million Cups. Since attending my first 1 Million Cups, I have never been more excited to hear more about startups and became more involved by helping organize this year’s BE BOLD conference!

Lauren Sturlaugson (10th grade)

laurenWhy should highschoolers engage with the local startup community?

I think it’s important for students to be engaged in the startup community, because it creates interest and can influence their future career choices.

How did you get involved with the startup community?

Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, and my father owns a start up business.

Neha Patel (12th grade)

Be Bold 2015

Neha (far left)

Why should highschoolers engage with the local startup community?

High school students should be involved in Fargo’s entrepreneurial community because it allows students to become aware about the exciting happenings in Fargo, as well as gain exposure to the multitude of opportunities available for young adults.

Personally being involved in Fargo’s startup community, I have gained so many connections with community leaders who have helped me successfully pursue and achieve my goals. Other students can also have access to this incredible support system by being connected with community members in Fargo who can, for instance, help them to start their own business.

How did you get involved with the startup community?

Last year, I become personally involved in the startup community, after a meeting with Greg Tehven to discuss Fargo’s entrepreneurial community. Greg invited my friends and I to attend 1MC and upon seeing the welcoming atmosphere and excitement at our first 1MC, we knew that the entrepreneurial community in Fargo was the perfect topic for our DECA project, which focused on the promotion of entrepreneurship. To spread the word about our project and became more involved, we attended 1 Million Cups various times (and also skipped school!), which helped us gain valuable connections with community leaders, gain a new perspective, and appreciate Fargo’s startup community.

Marisa Jackels

Marisa Jackels

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