Lara Mendel is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Mosaic Project, which has provided over 70,000 individuals – from elementary school students to adults in the workplace – with the skills they need to build the diverse, inclusive communities they envision.
Lara began imagining Mosaic when she was 15 and attended a weeklong summer camp that brought together students from different backgrounds to address prejudice and discrimination. While she went to an intentionally diverse school, this was the first time she talked about these issues outside her Jewish community. It was a powerful experience, yet the fear, defensiveness, deeply entrenched prejudice, and occasional violence she observed convinced her that waiting until high school to address issues of difference is waiting far too long. She decided that she would one day do this work with younger students before they reached adolescence.
This determination was strengthened during a college program that brought Jewish students to Germany. Meetings with former Nazis, as well as visits to concentration camps where her great aunts, uncles, and cousins were killed, solidified her commitment to fight all forms of hatred.
After graduating from Stanford University with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology, Lara had a brief career in cross-species communication working with Koko the gorilla, various dolphins, and formerly captive spider monkeys. She then worked extensively in violence prevention, youth development, and cross-cultural communication on four continents before returning to the US to found Mosaic. She is an experienced backpacker, aspiring surfer, and a Black Belt in Kajukenbo Kung-Fu.