Xitlali Cruz Will Attend Stanford University in the Fall
By Jenna Rahm, Interview by Dennis Rahm, with information submitted by Xitlali Cruz
Chelan High School graduate and Valedictorian, Xitlali Cruz, had a tough decision to make this year after she was accepted to three prestigious universities: Columbia, Princeton and Stanford universities. “It was very hard to choose,” she admitted to LakeChelanNow’s Dennis Rahm, but ultimately Stanford University provided the “rigor in their STEM courses” that Xitlali was seeking. She will begin at the school in Stanford, CA in the fall.
In addition to the academic program itself, Cruz stressed the appeal of the west coast, and being closer to family and home. “My family has been very supportive of me,” she said, “especially my mom – she’s been like my college counselor almost, helping me and supporting me through this.” Xitlali has lived in Chelan since she was two years old. Her father emigrated from Mexico when he was 18 years old, and works in construction. Her mother graduated from Chelan High School and Central Washington University, and works as a CPA. Xitlali also has two younger siblings, a sister and a brother, who attend school in Manson.
Her passion for the STEM field (science, technology, engineering and math) started at a young age, when she was primarily inspired by movies. “In movies, I’ve seen what STEM can do,” she said, referencing films like Wall-E, Interstellar, and Hidden Figures as examples. She set a goal to pursue a degree in Engineering and Computer Science at a top university.
“It is a male dominated field,” Cruz said of STEM, “but I’ve never really worried too much about that.” She notes that there is a lot of support for women, and Latinas especially, in the field. Xitlali spent her summers in several prestigious programs like Carnegie Mellon’s AI4ALL in 2019, where participants partook in a small group artificial intelligence research project, or the 2020 Summer Science Program in Astrophysics, which is affiliated with CalTech, MIT and Harvey Mudd. She joined Manson High School’s Robotics Team and worked to bring a similar program to Chelan. Xitlali noted that Mr. Barnes at Chelan High School has been particularly supportive of her pursuits. “He’s written a lot of letters of recommendation for me,” she joked.