Alumna: ‘Show up with your whole authentic self’

Veronica Juarez '00 inspires assembly audience with her story of success — and self-discovery.

Sarah Pruitt '95
September 16, 2022

When Veronica Juarez ’00 first arrived on Exeter’s campus in the fall of 1996, she remembers feeling like she didn’t belong.

“I was doubled over in anxiety…wailing out loud that maybe this wasn't such a good idea,” she told a rapt audience in the Assembly Hall on Friday, one week after the opening of a new school year. “If you don't feel like you belong here, for whatever reason...I am here to remind you that you do — otherwise, you wouldn't be here.”

>> Watch the assembly address from Veronica Juarez '00

A fifth-generation Mexican American from Houston, Texas, Juarez graduated from Exeter in 2000 and became the first in her family to attend college. After graduating from Stanford University, she launched a career in politics, working for a California congressman, Houston mayor and Texas state senator. In 2013, she made a crucial career pivot, joining the ride-sharing company Lyft as only its 62nd employee.

“After so many years in the public sector, I understood that access to transportation is an enormous equalizer for communities in need,” Juarez said. Over seven years with the company, she rose to become vice president of social enterprise, a position in which she brokered contracts with government agencies to provide rides to people in need in communities all over the country.

Though she had grown disconnected from Exeter while she was building her career, Juarez said, that all changed after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, when “our country was awakened with a newfound reckoning of racial and social injustice.” She spoke with emotion about discovering the @BlackatExeter Instagram account and being moved to tears by its reports of ongoing racial discrimination at the Academy. She realized that every organization, every institution — just like every human being — is fallible, and that if she wanted Exeter to change, she needed to be part of that change.

As a result, Juarez has increased her involvement with the Academy, and was recently elected as a director of the General Alumni Association (GAA). Her Assembly talk coincided with Exeter Leadership Weekend, an annual gathering of alumni and parent volunteers.

Since leaving Lyft in 2021, Juarez has been investing on her own and working as a scout for Lightspeed Venture Partners. In her Assembly talk, she shared the breaking news that she is launching a venture capital firm alongside Claudia Romo Edelman S’72, which will invest in Latino founders. She then closed with some heartfelt advice to Exeter students, encouraging them to “find the work that sets your soul on fire.”

“You may not know what that is today, and that’s OK,” Juarez said. “But don't be afraid to take that journey inward and discover what really lights you up….If you show up with your whole authentic self, you're 95 percent of the way there.”