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Mara Papalas

#248 Mara Papalas, Class of 2015, Student
(Liberal Arts AA, Specializing in Health Education and Nutrition. Currently working on my Fitness Specialist Certificate.)

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, spent most of my early life in Michigan, and then moved with my family to Kansas City where I graduated high school. I started college at the University of Iowa, transferred to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and began my singing career at the same time.

Throughout 13 years in Nashville, I worked many different jobs, while at the same time singing with several bands, and performing solo gig performances as opportunities arose. Also, while in Nashville, I even worked and performed at the renowned Bluebird Café. Then I moved around the country (Santa Monica, Colorado Springs, Tucson) and relocated here to the desert about four years ago. Singing has always been my passion and dream in life. Over the years I have sung with about six bands and recorded my first professional CD, Soulshine. I had a very strong voice and thought I was invincible.

Then, in October 2013 my life changed. I lived right next to the Union Bank on El Paseo that had a major fire. By February, I started having severe vocal cord discomfort. At this time I was doing sales and marketing for a time share company. After many trips to doctors and some misdiagnosis, I was placed on a six week vocal rest and consequently had to go on disability. I could no longer work at my sales jobs. Rather than lamenting that fact, I made the best of my situation.

I had driven by College of the Desert (COD) many times, but it was during this period of my life that I decided to turn in and see what other options there were for me. COD has been terrific in helping me get a handle on the next part of my life. So, I enrolled in classes, graduating in May 2015 with an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts, specializing in Health Education and Nutrition.

After that, I began studies to acquire a Fitness Specialist Certificate. At the same time, I became a certified health coach with Take Shape for Life, working with many clients helping them slim down as they learned how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I am now an exercise and fitness “nut” and want to work for the greater good and continue making a difference in people’s lives. I also pursue volunteering, most recently with Incight Disability Sports, Coachella Valley, and helping with wheelchair tennis at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. I am committed to my new passions---health, wellness, and giving back to the community!