Alum shares message of gratitude with assembly

Emmanuel "Manny" Vega '04 spoke of his journey to and through Exeter and how it's shaped his life since.

Adam Loyd
November 3, 2023
Manny Vega

The preteen Manny Vega ‘04 was a “conundrum.” A bright, driven student growing up in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, Vega was just as likely to be recognized for his academic accomplishments as he was to be sent to detention for altercations with bullies.

That’s why on a fateful day some two decades ago, after hearing his name echoing throughout the school over the loudspeaker, he tepidly reported to the principal’s office, unclear what he’d been summoned for.

“I remember my sweaty palms and racing heartbeat as I walked to his office, and as I got closer, I saw the back of his chair face the entryway,” Vega told assembly. “He slowly turned his chair and he gripped a piece of paper leaning in. As I leaned back, he said, ‘have you ever considered attending a boarding school?’”

That defining moment would set the course for Vega’s immediate and distant future.

A visit to Exeter and acceptance to the Academy soon followed. Vega explained the weight of his decision to leave home and his family.

“At the young age of 12, I understood why it was difficult for my parents to allow their eldest child to leave. Who's going to pick up my younger siblings from school or translate letters that came in the mail and help with errands around the house while they were at work?”

At Exeter, Vega found, and created, the opportunities not previously available. He was a multisport athlete, devoted member of numerous clubs including ALES, a participant in the Washington Intern Program and the founder of Los Salseros, a Latinx dance group.

After graduating from Wesleyan, Vega’s made numerous professional stops, but has never lost sight of the power of an opportunity, like the one given him more than 20 years ago.

“As I navigated the job market, I kept thinking back to my time at Exeter and how transformational it was for me.”

By day, Vega works as the director of admissions at The Waldorf School of Garden City on Long Island. He is also the program director of CitySquash, which uses the sport to make low-income students in New York City aware of private high school and college opportunities.  

Vega encouraged current students to take stock of the opportunity at Exeter and someday, pay it forward.

“Become a mentor, volunteer for class roles, attend regional events, come to reunions, donate what you can and do so each year. Every action is an investment in Exeter.”