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Our Alumni

Vanessa Mendal ‘13, Film & Television Producer

What warms your heart when you think of your experience at Scheck Hillel?
The lifelong friends I made and still talk to every day

Share a unique story from your days at Scheck Hillel.
I always remember the 6th grade medieval fair Mrs. Kapnek organized every year. It was such a fun way to get us all immersed in a part of history and it has stuck with me forever. I think I still remember the lines from the King Arthur play we put on (and a few square dancing moves).

Was there a teacher who had a positive impact and made you feel special like you could do it all?
Mr. C. (Mr. Cirulnik) was truly the best teacher I had at Hillel. He knew I loved to write, so he encouraged and challenged me in a way no adult ever did. It ultimately led me to confidently pursue a degree in Film & TV at NYU and I will never forget him for it.

Do you feel like your days at Scheck Hillel had an impact on your adult life and your choices? How so?
It definitely helped me understand the importance of community. The support and love I had from Hillel, and the amazing friends I've continued to be close with, are uniquely special relationships. It's kept me really grounded and has been an essential support system to have throughout my life outside high school.

What educational path did you follow?  
I went to New York University for undergrad and studied Film & TV at the Tisch School of the Arts.

What is your current profession and where do you work? How did you come to work in this field?
I'm a film and television producer at a production company called Stay Gold Features. We produced Honey Boy, Harriet, Joe Bell, etc. I started by going to film school and quickly realized I didn't want to be a screenwriter or director, so I spent every semester (summers included) interning at different media companies, until I realized what it was I loved. After a lot of tough entertainment industry jobs after college, I landed my dream job as a full-time producer.

What is most rewarding about the work you do? What are you passionate about?
I love that working in entertainment everything you do can make a cultural impact. All of the movies we make have some kind of empowering message at their core, and it's such an amazing way to reach a large audience. It's a superpower in some ways, one I don't take lightly.

Looking back, what advice would you give your 18 year old self?  
This goes for anyone who wants to pursue a dream career. I didn't know anyone in Aventura (or the Scheck Hillel community) that worked in this industry, and I truly had no idea how I was going to make it happen for myself. I worked really hard and stayed focused. People told me it was impossible, that making movies is not a real career. The most important thing is that no matter what you want to do, go after it with really hard work. Become an expert in whatever field you dream of being in. It's not easy, no one is going to hand you anything, but it absolutely pays off. Trust yourself.