Harker DECA attended the first conference of the year, the Silicon Valley LACE (Leadership and Competitive Excellence) Conference, in mid-November. This conference included keynote speakers, event and industry workshops and many opportunities to network with other schools.

As a non-competitive conference, LACE is a great opportunity for underclassmen new to or less experienced with DECA to become more familiar with the organization and increase competitive excellence.

“DECA LACE helps freshmen ease into the DECA atmosphere,” said Rahul Mehta, grade 11, Harker DECA’s director of written events. “It gives them a chance to get a feel for the competitive events as well as learn some handy tips to help them in competition.”

On day one, the officer team hosted a competitive preparation session, giving each student an opportunity to practice an exam, and role-play in their chosen events, with members of the officer team.

The opening ceremony began with an introduction from the Silicon Valley District Action Team (SVDAT), which includes three Harker students: Haley Tran, grade 12, executive vice president; Alisa Su, grade 11, vice president of communications; and Erin Liu, grade 10, vice president of fashion. Keynote speaker Scott Greenberg then shared his message, which included an interactive activity for students to meet new people from other schools.

On Saturday, DECA members heard from keynote speaker Chef Jeff, a former felon who discovered a passion for cooking and became an award-winning chef and best-selling author.

“In general, the motivational speakers really encouraged me to go out there, have a competitive mindset and learn,” Sukrit Ganesh, grade 10, said. “The next time I go to a competition, I’ll be way more focused and dedicated, and I’m really going to put my mind to it and try to win.”

Students attended workshops including Team Decision Making and Marketing Representative and Principles, hosted by Harker DECA’s own Enya Lu, grade 10. Available choices for the second round included Operations Research, Online Events and Professional Selling.

“I really like how they clarified what role-plays were during the teaching sessions,” Adhya Hoskote, grade 9, said. “Before I had an understanding of them, but now everything makes a lot more sense.”

Afterward, everyone listened to two industry workshops, with topics including finance, health care, technology, fashion and entrepreneurship, the last of which was presented by Harker DECA’s advisor Michael Acheatel. The last mandatory event for the day was The DECA Difference in College, which gave students an opportunity to ask DECA alumni about their college experiences and the role DECA had. This session also featured Harker alumni Shannon Hong ’16.

Later that night, Harker DECA attended the ever-popular LACE Fashion Show, which was hosted by Liu and sponsored by Group USA and Men’s Warehouse. Four Harker students participated: all three SVDAT members, along with Bryan Wang, grade 9. Su and Wang were later announced the winners of the show! Afterward, everyone enjoyed the LACE Dance, which featured a live DJ and free pizza.

Sunday morning began with the closing ceremony, including a keynote speech from last year’s California DECA president. The session also consisted of chapter goals, with Harker DECA’s co-CEOs Riya Chandra and Alexis Gauba, both grade 12, sharing Harker DECA’s accomplishments and continued plans for improvement.

Overall, LACE proved to be an awesome experience for all who attended. “I think DECA LACE was a really great opportunity for all the students to come together as a chapter and experience their first DECA conference,” said Gauba. “They were able to gain valuable knowledge through the leadership workshops from students who had previously competed network with students from the other schools.”

Many freshmen, who are all first-year DECA members, especially enjoyed their first taste of a DECA conference while improving competitively and gaining industry knowledge.

“I think that LACE was especially beneficial to our freshmen who got to experience what the conference environment is like,” Acheatel said. “Aside from hearing industry workshops and the benefit of listening to some really interesting speakers, they got a little introduction to what the competitions will be about and how to compete well.”

All the students who attended, from upperclassmen to underclassmen, also appreciated the opportunity to bond as a chapter and form new friendships.

“I think LACE really helped grow my network,” Mahi Kolla, grade 9, said. “I met a lot more people, and I think getting so many more contacts was one of the best and most beneficial parts.”

“LACE really helped create this sense of family amongst the members of DECA,” said Alex Chen, grade 11. “We really got to connect in a way that wasn’t present before.”

Following LACE, Harker DECA is in full preparation for the first competitive conference in January, the Silicon Valley Career Development Conference (SVCDC), and hopes to once again have an amazing DECA season this year.