Silver Creek HS, Class of 1992
Deputy Executive Director, NASA Ames Exchange

Maria Lopez Coles briskly walked past her middle school vice principal, dismissing the remark that she likely will not go to college and be a first-generation college student. Maria was determined to prove otherwise and succeed. Her ambitious parents made education a family priority, and participation in programs like Mathematics Engineering and Science Achievements (MESA) was mandatory!

At Silver Creek High School, MESA introduced her to many college prep opportunities and two remarkable advisors, Ms. Garcia and Mrs. Perez-Vokt. Maria went on to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from The National Hispanic University, followed by a Masters of Public Administration from San José State University (SJSU).

Maria’s passion to help others has been integral throughout her professional career and is evident in her current role as the Deputy Executive Director for the NASA Ames Exchange. She also serves in the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity as the Special Emphasis Program Manager for Individuals with Disabilities. In this role, Maria assists NASA Ames in ensuring that equal opportunity in employment and recruitment is present in all aspects of the workforce.

Maria has a deep commitment to lift and encourage others to higher achievements. Her professional and personal goals are to “create pathways to dreams” for underserved and underrepresented STEM communities throughout the nation. She serves on the Industry Advisory Board for the SJSU MESA College Prep Program and as a volunteer scholarship reader for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.