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Meet Lauren Lek of Academy of Our Lady of Peace in University Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Lek.

Lauren, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For me, it is all summed up in my senior “most likely” section, where my friends named me most likely to return to my alma mater as an assistant principal. At the time I was heading off to UCSD for college, and a pre-med major, but I realized my friends knew me even better than myself! It took me only a short time in college to switch my major to English and decide to pursue education. My internship at the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable for Education, solidified my passion for administration and school leadership. My journey to where I am today just reinforcing that the journey of life is never a straight road, but rather filled with lots of corkscrew turns. More like Ortega Highway (Hwy 74) than Interstate 5! I really thought I had arrived at my dream job as Principal at my Alma Mater in Northern California (which I had accomplished by 30), living two blocks from my parents, and surrounded by my childhood friends. Suddenly, my husband, John and I hit the left turn. John was offered an incredible opportunity to partner with one of his family friends and begin a new venture in San Diego. As partners in this journey, we decided being together as a family was quintessential. As soon as I put in my resignation, I was approached by recruiters for an opportunity in San Diego. I still remember the first time I visited the OLP campus. There was an immediate feeling of peace and possibility. I was worried that my new position wouldn’t feel like home, but it does! I treasure the incredible colleagues I am blessed to work with and the phenomenal 750 young women I spend my days with.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t feel that great joy and happiness comes from the easy, but rather the result of the challenges you must overcome to then get to those points. It was hard to leave my family in the Bay Area, the faculty that had helped shape me into the leader I had become, and the community I knew from birth. However, the move to San Diego has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. I also have had the chance to build upon a 135-year legacy of our school, OLP, and help move that into the present time. The iterative process forces a team to consider what is quintessential and cannot change, and what must change to remain relevant and competitive. At OLP, our school is able to celebrate being both the oldest and the only remaining all girls’ high school in San Diego County, because of our willingness to venture down a path of innovation. That journey is never smooth, but the bumps just bring unimaginable joy. For example, seeing girls working collaboratively to build robots and compete at the highest FIRST Robotics level is directly tied to our core spirit and values, but definitely not something girls were doing in the 1960’s. Iteration is core to innovation and sustainability.

Academy of Our Lady of Peace – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
That very first day I walked on campus, I was drawn to the school. I was enchanted by the historic grounds and captivated by the idea of an all girls’ environment. Although I had always been a strong proponent for women’s education, geography hadn’t yet given me the opportunity. I also saw that my skills in educational technology, STEM education, and supporting a rigorous Visual and Performing Arts program could help the growing goals of OLP. My own high school education, and later work at my alma mater, helped me grow into a leader that searches for the “yes.” A leader that looks for the possibilities. When I came to the campus I felt that the possibilities were ripe – I just needed to say “yes.” Faculty at OLP are incredible! They are visionary pioneers open to new ideas and integrating research into their practice.

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