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Meet Maria Mireles Osorio

In 1983, Maria Mireles graduated from San Dieguito High School a semester early and was accepted to a UC university. The events that followed would shape the rest of her life and her academic journey.

That following summer after graduating, Maria decided to enroll in the MiraCosta College cosmetology program where she never missed a class and received a perfect attendance trophy. But soon after finishing the program and obtaining her license, tragedy struck Maria’s family. Her mother passed away and Maria soon found herself without a support system to lean on.

“I was basically homeless at that stage in my life,” recalled Maria. “I was couch surfing with whatever family and friends had space.”

In that period, Maria married and had a baby girl. Then due to unforeseen circumstances and an unhealthy relationship, Maria divorced.

She had to navigate life on her own. And with responsibilities piling up, including raising her daughter. Maria's dreams of further education were temporarily set aside.

Instead of finishing her degree, Maria took on odd jobs to make money. She started to build her career as a hairdresser and supplemented her income as a temporary worker for a variety of organizations in San Diego. It was all she could do to get by at such a young age.

Unbeknownst to Maria’s, those early challenges were able to spark a 30-year career in education.

By happenstance, one of her temporary jobs was a part-time role with Vista Unified School District. The job was very different from what she was used to as a hairdresser, yet Maria found herself falling more and more in love with the work at the district. So when the opportunity arose to go full time, Maria knew she couldn’t pass it up.

Shared Maria, “They were looking for a bilingual support staff and I decided to apply. Even though I grew up thinking I would pursue a career in cosmetology, I liked the Monday through Friday work balance and it was rewarding to work in the education system.”

Recognizing her skills and expertise, the leaders at Vista Unified were quick to offer Maria the role. And so began a 30-year tenure advocating for students and helping others accomplish their educational goals within the district.
Still, the longing to complete her own education lingered.

As a mother of two with a full-time career, a college degree was far from sight. But in 2019, as Maria approached retirement, she started thinking more seriously about going back to college.

“I saw my youngest daughter excel in the classroom and I got encouraged by her,” shared Maria. “Watching her pursue her degree at UC Berkeley gave me confidence that I could do the same.”

Now retired, Maria decided to call a MiraCosta College counselor to find out how far she was away from her degree. Maria knew didn’t have too many classes to complete and now had more time available to commit to school. When she was told “just five courses,” she was committed.

Said Maria, “I was excited to be back but as a retiree I was at a very different place in my life. At first, I struggled because it was so overwhelming.”

Restarting her college journey during the pandemic presented its own set of obstacles. Struggling to navigate the virtual learning landscape, Maria was on the brink of giving up. But fate had a different plan.

Through MiraCosta College's Service Learning And Volunteer Center, Maria found a lifeline. A virtual meeting led her to meet Bea Palmer and Analia Zamora-DeHart, who became her guides through the maze of academia. Their encouragement, resources, and support breathed new life into Maria's academic goals.

With newfound determination, Maria tackled her courses one by one. Courses such as English 201 and Statistics were not just subjects, but stepping stones on a path to a dream. A dream that became a reality in May 2023 when Maria walked across the graduation stage at MiraCosta College.

Today, Maria continues to advocate on behalf of students and is even considering going back to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

“It has all been worth it,” beamed Maria. She now shares her journey, full of setbacks, triumphs, and unyielding resilience, with young and old students alike.

She concluded, “All you have to do is take the first step. No matter your circumstances or background, the opportunities are there at a place like MiraCosta College which guides you step by step.”

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