Sunday, November 13, 2016

Alumni Profile: Jennifer Padilla, a rising star at Balboa Park

L to R: Jerry Sanders, president/CEO, San Diego Regional
Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Padilla,
Betty Peabody, founder of Friends of Balboa Park
Meet Jennifer Padilla, a former student at both Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges who has been recognized as one of Balboa Park’s rising stars.

 Padilla, who serves as director of visitor services at the Natural History Museum, was honored with the Betty Peabody Emerging Young Leader of Balboa Park Award during the Friends of Balboa Park Annual Awards Luncheon on Oct. 18. The award recognizes exceptional promise and potential of emerging professionals who have demonstrated leadership by example in San Diego’s most famous greenbelt.  

“It’s a great honor,” said Padilla.

 A native of Orange County who grew up in Temecula, Padilla attended San Diego State University right after earning her high school diploma. It wasn’t cheap. Working full-time to make ends meet, Padilla took several general education courses at Grossmont and Cuyamaca over the summers to keep her tuition in check. 

She was not disappointed. 

“I have nothing but positive things to say about both Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges,” said Padilla. “The quality was no different than at San Diego State. It wasn’t like I got a lesser education. In many ways, it was better. The classes were smaller, the professors were more engaging, and I got a lot out of it.”

Padilla in many ways is typical of those enrolled in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. Nearly 6 in 10 students at Cuyamaca College attend classes on a part-time basis, and more than half of the students at Grossmont College are part-timers.  

 Padilla’s path to the Natural History Museum began when she landed a job working for San Diego State University’s Associated Students selling tickets for concerts and other campus events. That led to several similar ticketing positions over the next few years for the House of Blues and the San Diego Chargers, among others, before securing full-time employment as a customer service representative for San Diego State athletic events. She began working at the Natural History Museum two years ago.

 Padilla graduated from San Diego State in 2005 with the help of several courses she took at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.

 “It was fun to get a different kind of college experience,” said Padilla. “It can be intimidating for someone straight out of high school to go to San Diego State and be on your own, so taking classes at Grossmont and Cuyamaca was more comforting and less impersonal.”