Maria Pena

Student Services Coordinator

Even though Maria Pena has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and is close to finishing her doctorate, school has never been a cakewalk for her.  In fact, Maria has struggled through a number of classes, including an advanced statistics class that she has had to repeat more than a half dozen times.  “I just keep trying,” she says.

Maria has been diagnosed with learning disabilities and Lupus Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. Despite facing these challenges, Maria has excelled in school, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCSD and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from SDSU.

She has also been able to help students who live with similar disabilities.  For the past seventeen years, Maria has worked at MiraCosta College as the student services coordinator for Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS).

“This job is dear to my heart because I walk in these students’ shoes every day,” she explains.  “When you understand what they are going through, you’re much more likely to be able to help them.”

As the student services coordinator, Maria says she has to be a “jill of all trades.”  It is her job to ensure that students who need it receive accommodation in classes.  While she deals a lot with the logistical side of coordinating DSPS’ services, she also works directly with students every day, something that she truly loves.

“I tell students to be aware of their weaknesses as well as their strengths.  I urge them to come in and get assessed or come in and talk to me if their weaknesses interfere with their academic progress.  We at DSPS can help them acquire the tools to better deal with their disabilities.”