As Two Harbors High School senior Thatcher Sunday listened to the five other candidate names being called off, he was sure that he was out of the race for Minnesota DECA president.
He was standing in the 2018 DECA Fall Leadership Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, waiting to hear the results of the state presidential election.
"We thought there was a good chance of me getting an officer position, but the chances of someone with three voting delegates winning the election is so unheard of that when they called up those five VPs first, I mean, I thought I was done. I thought I was out," Sunday said.
But his name was called.
On Oct. 28, Thatcher Sunday was elected as the president for Minnesota DECA.
"It was just an incredible feeling," Sunday said. "But I had to keep my composure, button up the jacket and get up there to give my speech. Afterward, though, there were tears, smiles, hugs - the whole nine yards."
DECA is an international organization that helps prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in finance, marketing, hospitality and management. To Sunday, though, DECA is all about relationships.
"You are constantly working with other people, networking, building up your people skills," Sunday said. "And it helps you grow not only as an individual, but as a group as well. It's constantly growing your abilities to continue to further yourself in the business world and as an individual."
This is Sunday's second year in DECA. At the end of last year, he committed to running for president, but started making preparations in earnest this fall. His first move was to choose THHS junior Ashleigh Swanson as his campaign manager.
"I knew with her work ethic, determination and willingness to do the job, she'd be perfect for it," Sunday said. He had worked with Swanson on his last big project: the spring civility summit. Every year, the DECA chapter selects a project to focus on as a whole.
In 2017, Sunday and fellow student Tori Bott came up with the idea of hosting a civility summit to combat the "lack of respect and degrading environment" in the school. The summit became a region-wide conference involving 14 different high schools, over 35 businesses, a university and a world-renowned public speaker Mike Thompson.
The conference had 600 attendees, and reached a greater audience online through social media campaigns. This project lent Sunday a lot of credibility when pursuing his presidential campaign. It also helped that he already had a presence at the state level of DECA. Last spring, he was asked to sing the national anthem at the state DECA convention.
"So I decided, what better way to continue that reputation then to remind them of what I did by singing?" Sunday said. "Since our campaign slogan was 'Never stand still; rise up,' I decided to sing the chorus to Andra Day's 'Rise Up' right in the beginning of my speech, then I went straight into the rest of it. I think that played a significant role and stuck out in people's minds."
His speech at the conference was required to be no longer than two minutes and thirty seconds.
"Any more than that and they'd turn off the mic," Sunday said. "Which is a very short amount of time for a guy like me who likes to talk."
The speech was only one part of what determined Sunday's presidential win. Half of his score came from the election, where delegates from other DECA chapters cast their votes. Two Harbors' chapter only has three delegate votes, whereas other schools can have 17-22 votes.
There are 4,500 DECA members in Minnesota. This year's election had the most candidates for president, 15, seen in two decades. The other 50 percent of Sunday's score came from a combination of points accumulated from his speech, a panel-led job interview, a decked-out rally booth and a test on various DECA minutia.
"It was a lot of work, but worth it," Sunday said.
As president, Sunday will be expected to work with a board of five of his fellow presidential candidates to plan the large DECA events, create an educational/promotional statewide traveling DECA program and be the overall face of Minnesota DECA for the year.