I AM PTK: Jeff Jaureguy

Jeff Jaureguy has had some experiences many will only ever dream about. He hiked the Himalayan mountains. He traveled India south-to-north by train. He visited the birthplace of Buddha.

Spotted three Bengal tigers on a safari trip. Celebrated Holi, the Festival of Colors, in Puskar. Heard the Dalai Lama speak to Tibetans in India about happiness and health.

“The experience helped me see the interconnectedness of our human experience,” he said. “A lot of amazing, beautiful, liberating experiences. Words are not enough.”

Jeff grew up in California and graduated from high school in 2007. He took a few community college classes but ultimately wasn’t interested in school at the time. He’d had a tough time in school in his youth and struggled with anxiety and depression, so he quit college and took on construction and restaurant jobs for several years, often struggling to pay his bills.

It was during this work that he became interested in Eastern philosophy. He wanted to become a yoga instructor and a massage therapist, so he enrolled in MiraCosta College in California for their training programs in the two fields. This led him to India and Nepal.

“I was fascinated with meditation and yoga and wanted to understand the culture from where these fantastic tools for personal transformation and self-realization originated from,” he said.

While traveling, Jeff volunteered at a nonprofit program teaching English to Tibetan refugees. He also volunteered at a veterinary clinic in India, where he assisted in giving shots and applying bandages to stray dogs.

For the last four years, he’s been working with the Bishwa Seva Foundation, volunteering and raising funds for children in Nepal. He and his fiancé are sponsoring a 12-year-old Nepali girl so she can attend school.

“After traveling and seeing so many environmental issues, poverty, and suffering in the world, I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to education and service,” he said. “This sense of universal responsibility is what motivates me to succeed.”

After returning home, Jeff took a field job as an independent contractor surveying for endangered species in the Central Valley of California. He worked with other biologists surveying the endangered Gambelia sila, a species of lizard. This job created a desire to become more qualified and educated, leading him back to MiraCosta.

“I don’t believe that the traditional ‘pipeline’ to school after high school is the correct path in life for everyone, and there are so many things to learn about life that are not within academia,” he said, adding a quote from Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Jeff enrolled in 2015 as a biology major. While there, he was vice president of scholarship for his Phi Theta Kappa chapter and was named to the 2018 All-USA Academic Team. He was also president of MiraCosta’s STEM research club, which he co-created, and conducted research on various ecological projects in a lab at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM).

He has presented his research at national STEM conferences, and he received an academic excellence award for research completed during a summer internship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Jeff shared his story in a promotional video for MiraCosta College last year.

He is now completing his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in mathematics at CSUSM. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in bio-informatics with an emphasis in machine learning and statistics at the University of California San Diego.

“Being a Hispanic male, I would like to change the demographics of graduate school; only 2 percent of Hispanics go on to a Ph.D.,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to lead my research lab at a top-tier research institution and encourage other Hispanic and underrepresented minorities to pursue higher-level educational degrees.”

Also on his to-do list? Returning to Nepal, where he plans to visit the school funded through the Bishwa Seva Foundation and give a STEM workshop. He turns 30 this year and finally finds himself at a place in his life where he knows he’s heading in the right direction, that his life’s purpose is unfolding.

“I make sure to live life so I will have no regrets,” he said. “I show up every day and give it my all because I am blessed and am in full gratitude for my life.”

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