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Meet Anne Kelley

At 13 years old, Anne Kelley wasn’t sure she was ready to handle a math class at MiraCosta College. In the four years since then, she’s earned an associate degree in math, presented her research paper at a conference, and works as a math tutor. 

All it took was a math anxiety workshop at MiraCosta College to help Kelley overcome her math fears.

“The person presenting said, ‘It’s not where you’re at that matters. It’s the effort you are willing to put in right now,” Kelley said. “That is what will determine your success. I realized I could succeed in math if I was willing to put in the effort and the time and the brain work to flourish in that field.”

Kelley is one of five MiraCosta College students who will be receiving a Medal of Academic Merit award, the college’s highest academic honor. Recipients are awarded a medal that may be worn at commencement and will be acknowledged in the commencement program. 

Kelley had been home-schooled when her parents encouraged her to take a pre-calculus course at MiraCosta College. She saw herself more as a poet than as someone involved with math and science, but her math classes changed her mind.

“I discovered STEM is not black and white. It’s beautiful,” she said. “For me, it’s like I’m entering this jungle and every day I can explore something new and discover things I’ve never understood before, but I can now understand and appreciate.” 

Kelley went from someone worried about math to loving it and wanting to share her passion for math with others. She became a math major and became vice president of the math club, later becoming president of the club when she was 16 years old. 

At an event showcasing clubs for students to join, Kelley and the club members recruited new members with candy and a pitch that the Math Club was meant for anyone who wanted to do well in math. They recruited 42 new members. 

“We didn’t just want the math majors,” Kelley said. “We wanted the art majors. We wanted the business majors. We wanted everybody to love math.” 

Kelley also began working as a math tutor when she was 15 years old. She said she loves helping people understand math.

“Up until that point when I began tutoring, it had always been between me and math. Math was something that was personal to me,” Kelley said. “When I’m tutoring, you have to be able to get into the other person’s head and understand the barriers between them and understanding the solution to this problem. How can I help them around those barriers?”

Kelley said one of her favorite classes at MiraCosta College was her honors discrete mathematics class with Professor Zika Perovic. When she tossed out some of her ideas about number theory, Perovic suggested she take the class as Honors so that she could do research. She wrote a paper proving new theorems about prime numbers that she presented at a math conference at the University of California at Irvine. 

“Professor Perovic believed in me in a way that I didn’t believe in myself,” Kelley said. “Because of that, I was able to accomplish things that wouldn’t have been possible in even my wildest dreams.” 

Kelley was set to transfer in Fall 2023 as a math major to one of the many prestigious universities that had accepted her. Her brother, a software engineer, suggested she take an introductory computer science course prior to transfer. 

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s math, but you can interact with it even more. It’s math more hands on. Computer science is math presented differently.”

Her computer science class with Professor Michael Paulding erased her doubts about a career in computer science. 

“Professor Paulding’s amazing teaching abilities and unwavering support helped me see that I belonged in computer science and could pursue it as my career,” Kelley said. 

She plans to transfer to a University of California school to earn a bachelor’s degree and pursue a doctorate in algorithmic number theory, with the career goal of working as a professor in computer science. 

“My mission is to help students recognize the beauty of computer science and see the logical splendor built into its structure,” she said. 

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