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Interview with Mr. Lazo

Mr. Lazo, our new Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, joins us after working in the admissions offices of both Stanford University and Vanderbilt University. He looks forward to continuing College Prep’s admissions program and bringing in “students with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives who are all committed to academic excellence.”

What did you do before you came to College Prep?

“I was in university admissions for almost a decade. I started off in financial aid at Stanford, and shortly after went into admissions at Stanford. Most recently I came from Nashville, where I was at Vanderbilt in their admissions office.

I would have to say that the biggest contrast between college admissions and admissions here at College Prep is the influence of the parents. Here, the parents drive the conversation just a bit more than they do during the college search, and this presents an opportunity to interact with them more than in college admissions. Additionally, there’s a much smaller volume of students here, which is great. You’re not on the road for long periods of time. Last time I was on the road for almost twelve weeks. Not consecutively, but it was a very grueling schedule. This is a lot more manageable than college admissions.

In fact, I’ve known about College Prep basically since the start of my career. The school has a reputation that precedes its boundaries, even beyond the region itself. I’ve known about the school and how great it is for a long time. It’s really nice to be a part of the community versus being an outsider looking in. I also get front row seats to see how you all enter College Prep and how you intellectually and emotionally mature over four years – it is just fascinating!” 

How do you see yourself affecting or making a difference in this community?

“I think this community by its very nature is a dynamic community, so the changes that I’ve noticed over the time of knowing this school are almost expected. One life skill I would hope to continue fostering is the notion of being yourself. Like a symphony, there are four parts. When I was a teenager I thought the apex of my life’s symphony would come during high school. I laugh at that idea now. Your life is just beginning and this is merely the first movement. The time will come when the violins will swell and the horns will blare. Embrace who you are and enjoy the ride of your late teens and early twenties.”

How would you describe your high school experience?

“Because there were more people and I was dealing with a lot of personalities and different people at different stages of development, there were so many moving pieces that sometimes I didn’t know where it was safe. Half the time at high school for me was figuring out where my safe space was. I was deeply invested in music when I was in high school. I played the clarinet. That was my safe space. There were about three hundred in my graduating class, versus here where there are about ninety. I look at you all and you’ve known each other for the past four years. This is a true community.”

If you could give CPS students one piece of advice, what would it be?

“Balance. The community here is driven and that’s not something I would ever want to take away. However, I think that some students here should take the time to smell the roses. There’s a life after high school and your life will be waiting for you. There’s no need to rush it. If you have a homework free weekend, take advantage of it and focus on something that you love and that you haven’t been able to spend time on. You have other commitments in the school year, but that one weekend is time for you to do whatever you want. Do the one thing that has nothing to do with your school life.

The balance between life and school is important. You should take the time to step away from something you love, like school or admissions, and when you come back, you’ll be that much more energized and ready to go into that grind again. One thing that I’ve noticed when I come to campus every morning is that people are talking about homework. I think it’s great that intellectual conversations happen, but I don’t think you should get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of things like “what was number five?” It’s okay to step back and take some time to relax.”

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

“Cooking. That’s one thing I haven’t been able to do in the past few years, but now I have the time to cook. Last night I actually decided to start using a gift that I got from my mother. I experimented with crock-pot cooking and I made some chicken. Experimenting with foods, especially with all the different types of foods in the Bay Area, is something that I love.

I love Japanese food. I love the way it looks as well as the way it tastes. I’m a little biased because I’m half Japanese, but it’s the presentation that I love about it. When I’m looking at a dish, I think to myself, “what is that? I have no idea what it is, but it looks pretty.” And things that look good, you typically want to eat. I try to mimic it sometimes, but it just doesn’t work out. When I go to Japanese restaurants, I just look at the way they prepare all their food. It’s just the artistry of how they cut carrots sometimes. That simplicity just fascinates me.”

Who would you say was your role model when you were growing up?

“That’s a 20/20 question. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I keep coming back to my parents because they’re both immigrants. They came to the U.S. not knowing much English, from two very different cultures. My dad is from El Salvador and my mom is from Japan. They weren’t able to communicate initially, but then they fell in love, got married, and started a family. People who make those kinds of life decisions are risk-takers. You don’t know if you’re going to succeed when you take that step. I look at them and I think, “do I have that courage?” and at this point in my life, I don’t know. That step that they took is something that I think is amazing. It’s something that they don’t think twice about; it’s just a part of their life. To me, it’s something that I think is really remarkable.”

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