Once a Viking, Always a Viking

Ben LaZebnik ’14
Civic engagement has long been a defining characteristic of Ben LaZebnik ’14. In high school, he was part of the YMCA Youth & Government program which provided him with leadership opportunities to engage in politics at the state and local level. He served as co-founder and co-president of Campbell Hall’s revitalized Young Democrats Club, where he and his fellow members worked to help reelect Barack Obama. In his senior year, he was elected class president where he enjoyed working with a wide cross-section of his peers to address students’ needs.

From middle school through high school, Ben was also an active member of the Speech and Debate Club, where he loved participating in tournaments across Los Angeles and California. When Ben received the Thomas G. Clarke alumni scholarship, he used the funds to attend a summer program at Cambridge University where, among other courses, he took part in a Speech and Debate class. “I had never traveled outside of North America up until that point and suddenly I was debating in the Cambridge Union,” said Ben. “The program expanded my horizons and the award made it financially viable.”

As a K-12 student, Ben’s favorite memories of Campbell Hall center on community events and activities. From the experiential education trips in which he loved interacting with people he’d grown up with in completely different environments to watching countless basketball games in the Garver Gym, especially during the periods in which CH won state championships. Ben also enjoyed watching his friends perform at exceptionally high levels in theatrical, musical, and dance performances as well as displaying their talents in visual art shows. “I loved seeing people who I had known for a very long time share their gifts and ability with the rest of us. The whole CH community looked forward to those moments and we all took great pride in their accomplishments.”

Shortly before early decision notices for colleges came out, Ben told a few friends he would be in the college counseling office to open the highly anticipated email. When his acceptance from Columbia University came through, word quickly spread and a whole crowd of students and teachers gathered around him in the cramped office. “It was beautiful to have the Campbell Hall community celebrating that moment with me,” said Ben. “It wouldn’t have been possible without their support in the first place.”

The summer before college, Ben served as a mentor in the Campbell Scholars Program or CSP (formerly known as SEPP) during the program’s first year. “The San Fernando Valley is such a wonderful and diverse place, but it is also full of inequalities - income, housing, education,” Ben explained. “Campbell Hall is facing these issues head-on and helping people in a concrete way.” Ben was also impressed with and inspired by the scholars who attended the program. “I was blown away by their intellectual curiosity. These middle school students were constantly looking to learn and share ideas.”

At Columbia, Ben majored in Urban Studies with a specialization in political science where his focus would be on local and regional government, social movements, and urban politics. He felt he was well prepared academically because, he noted, “Campbell Hall teachers did not just push me to take in information, but to think critically and develop my own interest within intellectual fields.”

After college, Ben was selected to be a part of the Coro Fellows Program of Public Affairs, where he participated in advocacy projects, promoted a countywide environmental policy, and even helped out in a state senate campaign. Following this experience, Ben was hired as Community Affairs Deputy and Field Deputy for Councilmember Mike Bonin. During his tenure, he helped community members recover from the devastating wildfires of 2019, worked on Project Room Key which has provided shelter and housing options to people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, and helped navigate resources for community members.

Always one to shine the light on others’ accomplishments, Ben noted: “Especially during the pandemic, it’s been so great to reconnect and see from a distance what so many people I know are doing now. Friends are creating incredible art, providing affordable housing opportunities, and supporting the labor movement. It was also great to see how Campbell Hall adapted their educational offerings. All of these things benefit the community as a whole.” As for his own future, Ben, who is attending law school in the fall said: “I decided that in the long run I could make the most impact through the law. I would like to focus on issues of labor and employment or on housing and land use. I’ve had a lot of hands-on experience helping people in extreme crises and I want to continue to work for a better Los Angeles.”
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Campbell Hall is an independent, Episcopal, K-12 all gender day school. We are a community of inquiry committed to academic excellence and to the nurturing of decent, loving, and responsible human beings.
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