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Meet Haley Lepe

This past year wasn’t the first time Haley Lepe found herself applying for universities. But this time, it felt different.

Three years ago, Haley was preparing for her final year of high school in Temecula. Like many of her peers, her eyes were focused on the next stage in her academic career. With top scores across a slate of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, Haley had plenty of options in front of her. During her senior year, she was accepted into nearly every university she applied to. But still, something didn’t feel right. 

“I was always academically-focused and found success when it came to school, but I lacked confidence in some areas,” noted Haley. “Imposter syndrome was definitely a factor and I wasn’t comfortable spending so much money at a university without being 100% confident in my decision.” 

Haley initially enrolled in a university right after her senior year of high school. However, she pivoted quickly after thinking more about what she needed at the time. 

“I stepped foot onto campus but right away something was off,” shared Haley. “That’s when I decided to look at other options and pursue the community college route.” 

With her sights still set on securing a computer science degree from a four-year university in the future, Haley explored all the community college options around her and decided that MiraCosta College offered the best environment to grow and achieve her goals. Even though it would mean she had to drive 45 minutes to classes each day, the resources and opportunities on campus were exactly what she needed. Plus, the MiraCosta Promise grant she received meant that she could focus solely on her studies.

“Right from the start, MiraCosta College was the place I hoped for. The counselors were so supportive and all my professors were motivated to see me succeed.” 

Haley originally thought she would work hard, keep her head down, and transfer after a couple years. But her professors saw great potential in her and encouraged Haley to do more with her time on campus. During her first semester at MiraCosta College, Haley worked as a Transfer Center Intern to help other students in their higher education journey. She also joined the Computer Science for the Common Good Club, where she later served as its President, and from there the opportunities and accomplishments became a domino effect. 

Spurred on by fellow Chicano Computer Science Professors, Nery Chapeton-Lamas & Eduardo Mariscal, Haley applied to the hyper-competitive UC Berkeley Transfer-to-Excellence Summer Research Program in early 2023. And that summer, she found herself among a select number of students who received a stipend to spend nine weeks learning from and working alongside experts in their respective fields. 

“The opportunity was a full-circle moment for me,” shared Haley. “I was accepted to UC Berkeley when I applied in high school but didn’t feel like I belonged back then. Now I was working on its campus in the field I loved.” 

What’s more, for her research that summer, Haley received an Undergraduate Poster Presentation Award from the National Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science National Diversity in STEM Conference. 

Said Haley, “At first, I regretted not being able to start at a university after high school but now I know everything happened for a reason. I wouldn’t have had these opportunities if it wasn’t for MiraCosta College.”

Now, as a recent graduate of MiraCosta College, Haley is positioned for even greater success. Remarkably, she was re-accepted to all the universities she applied to in high school. However, Haley has chosen to attend Stanford University, a school she never dreamed she would be accepted to, especially as a high school student who didn’t think it was even within reach. 

After completing another prestigious research internship this summer at the University of Pennsylvania, Haley is thrilled to join Stanford on a full-tuition scholarship this fall. She has big plans to continue working in Computer Science, with a focus in Artificial Intelligence Safety. Haley aspires to return to community college one day as a professor and empower a new generation of students, just as she was empowered at MiraCosta College.

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