Let Us Introduce You: Juan Barzallo

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Let Us Introduce You: Juan Barzallo

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As a graduating senior, Juan Barzallo took some time to reflect on his time here at SLU. He pared down his extensive involvement in extracurricular activities from 15 to six after his freshman and sophomore years. “Juan, his freshman year, wanted to do everything, he wanted to be everything,” said Barzallo. In addition to mere participation in each organization, he was also on five executive boards during his sophomore year.

Even after his cuts, he was still involved in several organizations, including Student Activities Board, Residence Hall Association, Oriflamme, Rainbow Alliance and SafeZone, as well as being the president of League of Laughter for two years and a SLU 101 leader over the summer orientation sessions.

His main motivation for cutting things out of his life was for his personal growth.  “If I had focused a little earlier on doing the things that I love and doing the things that make me feel like I’m making a difference and like I’m changing and growing, I would have had a much easier transition from my high school career to my college career,” he said.

Of all the things that have helped him grow over the years, he pointed to League of Laughter, the improv comedy group on campus, as an experience that has shaped him in a profound way. He has adopted one of the improv rules in his own life. “In improv, we go through this rule, it’s called ‘yes, and,’” he said.  “basically the idea of ‘yes, and’ is that you’re given something, anything at all, and you take and accept that thing by saying ‘yes,’ and then you add something to it. The ‘and.’ In life, the same thing works. That’s why ‘yes, and’ has become one of my personal mottos. You can use this in your everyday life, in your work life. You can bring this to relationships, you can bring this to everything.”

Even when he can not say “yes,” he still employs a similar principle. “Sometimes, we can’t say yes to everything,” he said. “And we say no. But you still give something. It’s not only the ‘yes, and’, but it’s also the ‘no, but’ and that’s very important.”

This principle will guide him into the future. For the next two years, he will be taking part in the Billiken Teacher Corps program where he will teach in a Catholic school in St. Louis while concurrently pursuing a Master’s in Education. “When you graduate, you basically get two choices that are really shoved down your throat and one of them is [to] go back to school and the other is to get a job,” he said. “I have the privilege of doing both, and doing both in a beautiful and impactful way in a city that’s given a lot to me.”

After the two years are up, his future is still unclear. “I could see myself falling in love with education and being a teacher for the rest of my life easily because I’ve always loved kids,” he said. “But also, I’m not afraid to have some other present be given to me and I’m willing and ready to say ‘yes, and’ at something like that.”

Q&A with Juan:

Q. If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be and why? 

Mint chocolate chip, hands down. If there’s one thing that I know I love, it’s mint chocolate chip ice cream. If you’ve ever been to Coffee Cartel, their coffee might not be great but their mint chocolate chip ice cream is stellar.

Q. What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done over a summer break? 

Back when I was in high school, I was part of the US International Fencing Team and I went to the NAC, the North American Cup, and I ended up getting third at that competition. Afterward, my family and I went on an entire trip to Yosemite. So it was the best summer ever because it was everything you need—a little bit of nature, a little bit of family and a bit of ego boost.

Q. If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be and why? 

Mint chocolate chip, hands down. If there’s one thing that I know I love, it’s mint chocolate chip ice cream. If you’ve ever been to Coffee Cartel, their coffee might not be great but their mint chocolate chip ice cream is stellar.

Q. What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done over a summer break? 

Back when I was in high school, I was part of the US International Fencing Team and I went to the NAC, the North American Cup, and I ended up getting third at that competition. Afterward, my family and I went on an entire trip to Yosemite. So it was the best summer ever because it was everything you need—a little bit of nature, a little bit of family and a bit of ego boost.