Welcome to DSPS Alumni at Work, where we reconnect with past San Diego Community College students whose participation in Disability Support Programs and Services helped them transition into the workforce. Today, we’re excited to spotlight John Loewenberg, a Miramar College student who is now a vital part of the college's Automotive Technology Program as an Instructional Laboratory Technician.
Test Driving College
Loewenberg's love for the automotive world began early, and he knew he wanted to turn his passion into a career. After graduating from Poway High School in 2010, he embarked on his higher education journey at Miramar College in 2011. He chose Miramar because of its cost-effective tuition and the academic flexibility it offered. He was eager to test drive various subjects while remaining committed to his true passion: automotive technology.
Loewenberg fondly remembers his first years at Miramar, citing Mark Anderson's Health 101 class as a particular highlight.
"He made his class atmosphere fun and lighthearted, which made learning easy, especially since I was nervous about being at a new school," said Loewenberg, who also noted the professor's incredible support in providing disability accommodations.
Loewenberg, who has a social anxiety disorder, described how even the simplest academic and social interactions felt like daunting challenges. Group projects, speaking in class, and making friends, for example, all felt like “navigating a minefield.”
“Every time you have to interact,” he said, “there was this nagging fear of being judged or saying the wrong thing.”
The anxiety wasn't just in his head; it brought physical symptoms like shaky hands and a racing heart. At first, these challenges negatively impacted Loewenberg’s academic performance.
“My grades took a hit because I'd sometimes avoid classes or group study sessions, just to steer clear of those anxiety-inducing situations.”
Fortunately, he recalled, Miramar faculty and staff recognized the obstacles in Loewenberg’s path and “offered the support, counseling, and resources to help students like me get through it.”
Preparing for the Road Ahead
Tapping into student services like Miramar DSPS not only enhanced Loewenberg's academic success; it prepared him for the workforce.
“Disability support doesn't just help in school; it sets you up with skills that assist in the workplace and the rest of your life,” he said. “These services [teach students to] speak up for themselves, get hands-on with assistive tech tools, get to practice time management and organization. If you’re ever torn about disclosing your disability at work, the experiences with these services can guide you.”
After completing the two-year Honda PACT program at Miramar College in 2013, Loewenberg transitioned to a full-time position at Hoehn Honda in Carlsbad. In 2016, Miramar College welcomed him as an Instructional Lab Technician, where he subsequently achieved his ASE Master Technician status.
From the Driver’s Seat
Loewenberg finds his role at Miramar incredibly rewarding. He enjoys teaching students and takes pride in witnessing them grasp challenging concepts.
“It feels good knowing I might have helped in some way. It’s not about grand changes, but those tiny steps of progress,” he said.
When asked how he might advise prospective students with disabilities, Loewenberg encourages a trifecta approach of self-advocacy, self-care, and celebration.
“Don't be afraid to seek out the accommodations you need and lean on them,” he said, adding that DSPS representatives can offer insights, tips, and that comforting feeling of not being alone. “Remember to prioritize self-care; it's not just a buzzword. Taking breaks, finding relaxing activities, or even seeking counseling can be great outlets. Lastly, always remind yourself of your achievements, no matter how small. Every step forward is a victory. With determination and the right support, you've got this!”
As for students transitioning into the workforce, Loewenberg believes that companies should prioritize understanding and compassion.
“I've seen instances where profit and efficiency overshadow human compassion and understanding,” he said. “It's disheartening to think of others who might feel overwhelmed or excluded. It's essential for companies not only to make physical accommodations but also to foster a culture that values every individual's contribution, recognizing the strength in diversity.”
No matter what students face in the classroom and beyond, Loewenberg wants them to know they can reach out to him for support.
On the Horizon
Outside the classroom, Loewenberg loves spending quality time with his dad in the garage, continuing the family tradition of tinkering on 1960’s Chevy hot rods.
“It’s more than just a dive into mechanics or reliving automotive nostalgia,” he said. “The time working together has been a binding force, linking me with the wisdom and memories of both my dad and granddad.”
He hopes to become a father one day, perhaps passing on the wisdom and memories to his own child.
“I'm eager to embrace the mysteries ahead and whatever life has in store for me,” he said.
At DSPS, we’re so eager to watch the journey unfold!