Last Monday night, the Mercersburg Academy community gathered in the Simon Theatre for the first endowed lecture of the year. This year’s Jacobs Residency Lecture was Dianna Lora ’00, is now the licensing production manager at Zynga for the upcoming video game Star Wars: Hunters. Dianna Lora is a Bronx native. Her parents immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. Lora’s parents did not speak much English, so their entertainment surrounded the Atari console in their home and the game The Legend of Zelda.
Through a non-profit organization called “A Better Chance,” Lora gained the opportunity to pursue her high school education at Mercersburg Academy as a first-generation low-income student. As an Afro-Latina in a predominantly white community, Lora experienced culture shock. But through her perseverance, Lora’s hard work was rewarded when she earned a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College and became the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college.
At this year’s Jacobs Residency Lecture, the Mercersburg community learned Lora's life story chronicling her rise to success from a humble background. In his introduction, School Minister Will Whitmore said, “Dianna Lora was chosen as the Jacobs Residency Lecturer due to her unique accomplishments and perspective. When talking about sense of place, addressing virtual space and gaming was a priority due to the interest in this from our student body. Dianna also brings a unique perspective as an alumna, Latinx woman. We felt the combination of this was valuable to our community. I got a lot of enjoyment hearing her story and being inspired by it. The slides were fun too!”
Lora’s talk was well received and perhaps even changed the perspective of some. Charlie Xu ’26 was particularly fascinated with the unique way that Lora began her speech, having the whole community start it with her by pressing a virtual start button simultaneously. Olivia Wetzel ‘24 said the speech felt personal to her. “I connected with her passion and how she really liked her job. I think it showed that people should do what they love and how they can be successful and happy at the same time.” Alyssa Lee’s ’25 favorite part of the speech was when Lora talked about how Mercersburg changed her life and gave her more opportunities to succeed despite her starting point.
In addition to the lecture, Lora also enjoyed a special dinner with the Latinx/Hispanic Student Union and the Black Student Union where she shared more details about her life story. Kevin Malo ’24, vice president of LHSU, felt he was greatly inspired by this more intimate conversation which provided a chance for him to relate to Lora even more. “During our dinner talk, she explained her journey on how she made it from the Bronx to Mercersburg Academy, which hit very close to home for me. She mentioned that she participated in a program called A Better Chance, which is a program very similar to NJSEEDS, from which I graduated. It felt great to be able to relate to the child of immigrants and being able to make it out of a not so great town.” Deran Shippy ’25 of the BSU learned a lot from the experience. “What I gained from the talk was how you should always be the best version of yourself no matter what the circumstances are.” Malo added, “The speech made me feel emotional because I know the exact feeling she had in that moment; it was one of those ‘I made it’ moments.”
Lora finally fulfilled her passion when she began working in the gaming field and cooperating with many high-profile companies and franchises in the industry, such as Ubisoft, Sony, and Cartoon Network. Coming from a modest background where she was, she said, expected to fail, she never gave up. Lora stands as a prime example of always fighting for your passion and dreams.