Lazaro Cesar '15

An admissions officer from Exeter visited a middle school in a rough neighborhood in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was there to meet five promising students, including a then 13-year-old Lazaro Cesar. When Lazaro walked across the stage on the Academy lawn after four years at PEA, he became the first in his family to graduate high school.

“It’s so different here,” Lazaro says. “Kids have integrity and self-motivation — no one’s here to be on your case about your homework. I wanted to be engaged in what we were learning. I couldn’t do that at home. There, the ones who wanted to learn sat at one table up front. Everyone else in my 40-student class was either on their phones or in the back being disrespectful.”

The transition to life at PEA wasn’t necessarily smooth. Lazaro encountered the same bumps along the way that most preps face.

“At Exeter, you have to be courageous enough to be vulnerable,” he says. “You have to ask for help. I knew when I saw that C on my first midterm that it was going to be tough here. You can try hard and still pull a B. I thought that I could pull what I was pulling in middle school, and I got a rude awakening. I handled it by talking with my dorm proctors and getting their advice.”

“Now [as a senior] I’m at the top of the food chain, so to speak. I show the new guys in my dorm what not to do, and help them out with their History 333 papers and college applications.…I’ve never been afraid to be a leader.”

Lazaro says the open discussions of the Harkness classroom have taught him how to respect other opinions and become more empathetic — traits that will serve him well in his intended career in social service.

“I came to Exeter because I wanted better things for my family. To the donors who make that possible, I want to say, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve given me in life.’ I can come here, study abroad in Ecuador, take classes and get involved with clubs. I’ve grown into a more mature, sophisticated person. Words can’t describe how blessed I am to have people supporting me and supporting Exeter.”