AATL Alumni

Alumni Q&A with Jalex Stark ’13

Academy graduate Jalex Stark currently attends California Institute of Technology and is majoring in mathematics. Jalex plans to pursue a PhD in Computer Science, specializing in Quantum Information.


Q: When did you begin your Academy journey?

A: I was 10 years old when I enrolled at Academy, and I wasn’t into sports, music, or teaching. As I continued my education at Academy, my perspective changed. Before, I only saw right and wrong, not the steps leading up to the decision or what lies in-between. At any other school, I never would have ended up playing sports or music.


Q: What activities and clubs were you a part of while you were a student at Academy?

A: I was a co-captain of the football team under Coach Castelemare and a starting offensive lineman my senior year. I played two years of basketball under Coach Haslam; I quit so that I could focus on math and robots and I participated in the first year of the Academy FIRST robotics team.


Q: Given your love of the cello and teaching, in what ways did you give back to Academy while you were a student?

A: I played cello in the orchestra. I played in the pit orchestra for the musical three times and played some duets with Mr. Heller at my senior Spring Concert. A couple of times I mentored younger cellists, including going across the street to show off to Lower Division students.

I coached several Academy Middle Division students for the local chapter of the national MATHCOUNTS competition as well as forming the Chess Club with alumnus Raj Warman ’16.

I also served as a teaching assistant for Academy’s first Advanced Placement Chemistry class with Dr. Jordan, including grading homework, doing lab setup, and helping author quizzes.

I also guest lectured for AP Calculus AB a few times, and I led a twice-weekly semester-long AP Calculus BC section.


Q: How did your Academy experience prepare you for college?

A: AATL taught me how to communicate and collaborate with adults and provided me with the skills to create and maintain professional relationships with figures of authority and the skills needed to be a leader.

My mentors and teachers take my contributions at face value, treat me as a peer, treat me as a collaborator, and value my feedback.


Q: What life skills did you gain from your Academy experience?

A: I learned the value of talking to others. I found passion for teaching, worked hard on homework, and developed more humanity, ultimately becoming more well-rounded in the process and more accepting of who I am.


Q: How are you continuing your passion at Caltech?

A: Currently, I direct the annual Caltech Harvey Mudd Math Competition, which is mostly a regional contest for high school students from Southern California but attracts some international competitors as well.

Last summer, I spent time in Northern Ireland attending a workshop, supported by the London Mathematical Society, in quantum information theory.

I also worked as a residential counselor at BEAM (http://www.beammath.org/), an organization that recruits middle school students from underfunded areas who have a passion for math. The organization brings them to college math classes and introduces them to new math programs, techniques, essentially paving a path to STEM careers.


Q: What advice do you offer for students new to Academy?

A: You have to find something you’re good at. Then share it. Hone it. Find your niche. Contribute to the community. Let your peers push you to be better. Become the person that does X. When you are in your niche, it is easy to excel and find likeminded people.