The Face of DECA

DECA chapter President Emily Lam has been a part of DECA for all four years of her high school career, but it wasn’t easy to get to the position of president. DECA has allowed Lam to develop leadership skills and build connections that will last beyond her time as a Phoenix.


Courtesy of Emily Lam

Fresh from placing 4th on March 5, 2022 at SLC (State Leadership Conference) in the Project Management Career Development category, Emily Lam (right) poses with her friend, senior Nina Lal (left), in celebration of both of their successes.

James Lee and Iyush Hoysal

As the bell rings at 4:18 p.m., senior Emily Lam breathes a sigh of relief as she picks her bag up and heads towards room 1305, where she will be leading a DECA meeting planning the next competition. Entering confidently, she opens the door and walks to the front of the classroom, where she greets her fellow DECA officers and advisors. “Who’s ready to crush the next competition!?” 

Lam is known as the president of one of the best DECA chapters in the county; however, her path to the position wasn’t easy.

Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) is a non-profit student-led organization dedicated to helping students become leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.

Lam has been in the program since her freshman year, and the first roadblock she faced was her struggle with communication.  “A problem for me was public speaking,” Lam said. “I just did not feel confident, and did not have the ability to talk in front of students or adults, and even in smaller groups; that was definitely a struggle.” 

Through  the COVID-19 pandemic and into her sophomore year, Lam was thrust into the role of Project Manager of Social Media and Marketing, forcing her to address her self-admitted weaknesses of public speaking. However, this was also her first taste of a leadership position, and where her skills began to emerge. Throughout her DECA career, Lam was able to turn one of her biggest weaknesses into one of her largest strengths, which led to her current position of chapter president. 

One of the people who guided Lam to her position and helped her grow as a person was business and marketing teacher Ben Stodola, who is one of the advisors at the Rock Ridge DECA Chapter. Stodola has been Lam’s DECA advisor for all four years of her high school career, as well as her marketing teacher during her sophomore year. “As a high schooler, I think her professionalism sets her apart from [other] students I’ve seen in a leadership role,” Stodola said. “The way she’s handling stuff shows initiative by her setting up meetings, planning ahead, and taking care of items that has allowed us as advisors to easily trust that the organization is in good hands.” Lam is also extremely skilled in showing professionalism, which is imperative when in a position of that caliber.

However, having a high position comes with a high level of responsibility and work. Lam has grown as a member of DECA and built the skills needed to succeed, but her workload and number of responsibilities has increased with time as well. “The most important thing for me is to make sure I’m not super stressed,” Lam said. “I’m not the best at that, but I think when I am stressed, just taking time for myself, whether it’s playing volleyball, hanging out with friends, [or] just doing something to help myself relax [helps me destress].”

One of the friends Lam hangs out with on a daily basis is senior Isabella Nguyen, who has known her since third grade. Lam doesn’t compromise when it comes to her friends; she always looks out for them and checks on them if she notices that something is amiss. It’s a skill that is extremely beneficial for  keeping her personal relationships healthy. “She’s very attentive of other people’s feelings,” Nguyen said. “She understands what you’re feeling at that time.” 

These types of skills can not only be good to help make and keep friends, but can also be applied in the classroom and to other extracurricular activities.

Lam has received multiple awards throughout her time with DECA, with placing first at District Leadership Conference (DLC) in Principles of Hospitality and Tourism and was a top scorer at State Leadership Conference (SLC) in her freshman year, placing 7th at SLC in the Innovation Plan Event (EIP), qualified for International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in her sophomore year, placed 4th in Project Management Career Development, qualified for ICDC, and received the Emerging Leadership award in her junior year of high school. 

Lam plans to use the skills learned through DECA and throughout her high school career to pursue a major in business and marketing, along with a minor in biology or kinesiology to go to physical therapy school, and pursue a career in physical therapy.