The past 18 months have been good to Jessica Murguia. Marriage. Master’s degree. And most recently, a new job as the Interim Student Services Coordinator in the High School and Community Relations Department at Cuyamaca College – a post that includes overseeing outreach to high schools and the community, scheduling campus tours, and organizing the East County Education Alliance’s annual college and career fair, “Got Plans?”
She couldn’t be happier.
“Serving first-generation college students, serving students who cannot afford to go into a four-year college or university straight out of high school, serving students from underrepresented communities, it gives you a rewarding feeling that you’re helping to make a difference,” said Jessica, whose personal experiences underscore the impact Cuyamaca College is having.
Jessica grew up in a single-family household of modest means who couldn’t afford to enroll at a four-year college or university upon graduating from Valhalla High School. “I’m a first-generation college student, and I didn’t really have anyone to turn to regarding the college application process or the financial aid process, but I always knew from a young age that I wanted to go to college.”
Cuyamaca College was a logical choice. It was close to home. It was affordable. And it was chockfull of supportive services aimed at promoting student success. Between classes, she worked in various areas on campus, including Counseling, Disability Support Program & Services, and Student Affairs. She became a full-time student services specialist in 2013, became Acting Student Success Coordinator in 2014 and was named Interim Student Success Coordinator in 2015. Along the way she has earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in postsecondary educational leadership from San Diego State University.
Jessica’s priorities as Interim Student Success Coordinator include initiating and strengthening partnerships with local high schools and promoting Cuyamaca College’s programs and services in the larger community. That includes overseeing the college’s staff of student ambassadors and educate high school students about the opportunities afforded through the college’s dual enrollment program – a program that enables high school students to take college courses that count toward both a high school diploma and a college degree or certificate.
“Jessica is truly committed to student success and higher education,” said her former supervisor, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Lauren Vaknin. “Jessica has been instrumental to the success of various outreach and Student Service programs and events, she is very creative and collaborative and definitely an asset to the campus.”
That viewpoint is shared by others who know her. Her current supervisor, Nicole Jones, Interim Dean of Counseling Services, credited Jessica for being a leader on a comprehensive Cuyamaca College outreach team.
“Jessica embodies the Cuyamaca Way,” said Jones. “She is responsible for over 10 student hourly workers who are the ‘face’ of Cuyamaca College. These student ambassadors go through an intensive 60-hour training (conducted by Jessica) and are transformed into knowledgeable individuals who want to inspire, provide opportunity, mentorship and access for our students. Jessica leads the way with her ability to collaborate with faculty, staff, programs and departments across the college and district.”
Among the fruits of that ability to collaborate is her management of “Got Plans?” at Cuyamaca College on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is the largest college and career fair in East County, with representatives from various colleges, universities, and employment agencies providing information and workshops on higher education and potential career and job options.
Jessica, who earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in educational leadership from San Diego State University, says her career goals include becoming a dean or associate dean at a community college, preferably within the district.
“I am so thankful for the support I received from the staff, faculty, and administration here at Cuyamaca College,” said Jessica, whose husband, David, also graduated from Cuyamaca. “This is a very supportive environment. People are really looking out for you.”