Rodriguez is a history major transferring to the University of California, Berkeley following her graduation from Cypress College. She persevered in her education despite falling ill during her senior year in high school, and has been part of the Honors Program at Cypress College, representing the College at the Honors Transfer Council of California’s Annual Student Research conference. She has a passion for learning and is interested in a wide variety of fields in the social sciences, humanities, arts, and sciences. She will major in classical studies at Cal.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I’ve actually lived in Cypress my whole life! I graduated from Cornelia Connelly School in 2014 with over a 4.0, but during my senior year I started getting really sick. I went off to school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but I left after my first quarter because my health started to deteriorate. I decided to start at Cypress, which is something I had never imagined myself doing before. That decision turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever could have made. Over the years, my health has gotten better along with my outlook on life! Being at Cypress was the unexpected experience in my life that has made all the difference.
Why did you choose Cypress College?
I chose Cypress College because it’s close to home and because I knew it was a great school with many opportunities!
What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
When I first got to Cypress College, I was pretty confused. I hadn’t had orientation, I signed up for classes really late, and I didn’t even know community colleges had majors.
That first semester, I had signed up for an honors class because it had room. The next semester, I took a few more honors classes and found out about the Honors Program. Joining the program has been an integral part of my time here. It’s an amazing program that really encourages students and helps them achieve great things.
I represented Cypress College this year at the Honors Transfer Council of California’s 18th Annual Student Research for California Community Colleges at the University of California, Irvine! It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about conducting humanities research and presenting. My presentation was on the role of women in ancient Rome as revealed through original Latin texts. For the project, I compiled primary sources written in Latin and translated them into English, then used that evidence to form an analysis and summary of the lives of these women.
Most of my time here was spent taking different classes and preparing to transfer. I’ve also been quite involved in the art program at Cypress College, having taken three painting classes, pottery, and digital painting. The art program here is great, and I’ve learned so much from all my teachers. I’ve also had the opportunity to show some of my pieces in the annual student art show and in a few publications across campus!
What are you most passionate about? Why?
I’m most passionate about learning! I love school and I wish I could study and be a full-time student for the rest of my life! It’s really hard for me to pin down exactly what I’m most passionate about. I love the Classics, and will be studying that at Berkeley. I love the field because it combines so many interesting things, my love for Latin, history, philosophy, art, religion, politics, and so much more!
I’m also really passionate about astronomy/space exploration and art. I’m a huge Star Trek nerd, so naturally, I love space! This year, I participated in the online segment of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program (NCAS). It was exciting to learn from people at NASA about space exploration, astronomy, physics, and the future of science and technology. I will also be going to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for an on-site workshop!
Art has also always been a big part of my life. I’ve taken painting here with Paul Paiement as a beginning, intermediate, and advanced student. I feel like I’ve learned and grown so much as an artist, and my teachers here definitely helped a lot. For me, art is almost like an escape. It’s extremely difficult, but I like a good challenge, and it offers me an opportunity to become 100% focused for a few hours and block out everything else in the world. It’s also pretty exciting to see something you’ve worked on for months up in a gallery!
Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
There have been so many amazing teachers here at Cypress College that have really helped me along the way! I’ve had a few teachers, like Professors Nicole Ledesma and Paul Paiement, who I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken multiple classes with.
Professor Ledesma was an amazing professor to have! I was so stressed and anxious about having to take math, but she made the classes I took with her great. I actually ended up enjoying statistics, which is another thing I never thought would happen! I know for sure if it wasn’t for her, I definitely wouldn’t have learned so much, enjoyed the subject so much, or have done as well as I did.
Professor Paiement has also been an amazing professor I’ve been lucky enough to have here at Cypress. I’ve taken art classes before, but he was the first teacher I’ve ever had where I truly felt like I was learning. He’s helped me so much as an artist, and I feel that I’ve gotten much better as a painter during my time here. He’s been very encouraging, but I also feel like he has challenged me a lot and driven me to be a much better artist and to not just settle.
Another of my favorite professors is History Professor Bryan Seiling. I loved his class so much. While it was difficult, he really made the class interesting. He has a great personality and sense of humor, and is clearly passionate about history.
Ms. Penny Gabourie has also been such an integral part of my time here at Cypress! She is an amazing counselor and has helped me so much with figuring out the transfer process. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without her, and I am so thankful for all she has done for me!
What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
In the beginning of June, I will be participating in an on-site program at NASA’s JPL which I’m really excited about!
In the fall, I will be starting my studies at the University of California, Berkeley in classical civilizations. There are a number of organizations I would like to get involved in there, and I would love to continue the research project I started while here at Cypress!
What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
For now, my long-term goals are to do well in school at Berkeley and to be happy. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do after I graduate, but I’m planning to pursue a master’s degree and perhaps a doctorate, depending on what I decide to go into. There are so many things that I am passionate about and would love to spend my life doing. Right now, I’m content with the unknown. I’m looking forward to learning as much as possible at Berkeley and beyond.
Aside from education, I would love to travel as much as possible and learn as many languages as I can. I want to explore every corner of the world and learn about the cultures and histories of each unique place. I’d also really like to go to space when space-tourism takes off! I also want to become the world’s leading historian in something really obscure and be interviewed as an expert for a History Channel documentary.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of myself! I’ve faced a lot of setbacks in my life and the last few years have been anything but easy. I’ve worked though being sick and recovering. I was diagnosed with two learning disabilities (dyslexia and dysgraphia) that I didn’t know I had until a year ago. I’ve achieved all that I have while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
I’m really proud of how far I’ve come and how much I have overcome in the past few years. So much has been thrown at me, and I’ve constantly been recalibrating my course of life. It’s been quite difficult, but I’m so proud of all the hard work I’ve put into it all and everything that has come out of it!
What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
Try your hardest in everything you do, no matter how trivial you think it is. Everything you do is a reflection of yourself and your values.
Also, talk to your teachers outside of class whenever you can! They love talking to their students and you can get a lot of learning done in a small amount of time when you talk with them one on one. Even if all you have is a few moments after class, ask them a question. It doesn’t even have to be on the topic/subject they are teaching. I think it’s always a good idea to ask people who are learned in any subject their opinions on things because they can offer you a unique and educated perspective.
One of the best things you can do as a student is connect what you learn in different subjects together with things in life. It makes subjects more relevant and interesting, and your education becomes strung together like a web. You may be surprised about how what you learn in one class may be so helpful for what you learn in another!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d just really like to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. There are so many people who have helped me so much, and I can never thank them enough!