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News: Graduating PCC Student Exemplifies Academic Success

The Rodriguez Family

When Pasadena City College presents its latest graduating class on June 15, at 7 p.m. in PCC’s Robinson Stadium, it will be a celebration of achievement, desire, and student success. Juan Rodriguez is one example of student success among this year’s graduates. 

Rodriguez has always been a busy man. The 34-year-old father of six doesn’t have a lot of time in his day to just sit down and relax. In fact, he hasn’t stopped working since he’s started, at age 13.

“I’ve been working my whole life,” Rodriguez said. “I dropped out of high school to make ends meet, and make sure everyone’s OK. But my intention was always to go to college.”

And now, he’s going to UC Berkeley.

“My older sister was the first to go to college,” he said. “She’s always been a bit of an inspiration for me, to do more than I do.”
Rodriguez enrolled at PCC in the fall of 2008, while maintaining a full-time job.

“My first two years I worked two jobs, one full-time and one part-time,” he said. “Time has always been the biggest struggle for me.”

Rodriguez worked his way through the service industry - from a cashier, to a dishwasher, to a cook - and eventually into management, where he thrived for nine years.

“Working hard has always been important to me, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed what I do, but I could not see myself performing this task for the rest of my life,” Rodriguez said. “I thought, I could do this job and it wouldn’t be bad, but then I thought, it won’t make me happy.”

Deciding to go back to school was a big decision for Rodriguez. His now or never moment came, and despite being intimidated, he decided to go for it.

Rodriguez initially began trying to get his GED, but after only a few weeks, decided to take the entrance exams at PCC. He was placed in college-level courses.

“When I was in high school, PCC somehow seemed more prestigious than other places,” he said. “I always had the feeling that it was just the better place.”

It’s certainly been the right choice for him.

“It has been the ideal place,” Rodriguez said. “I believe it’s helped me reach my goal.”

Rodriguez is transferring as a political science major, and hopes to become a lawyer one day, perhaps in administrative law. He’s pretty excited about going to UC Berkeley.

“They [Berkeley] are going to help cover a substantial amount of my expenses,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about tuition.”

Rodriguez was actually accepted to all the schools he applied to, including UCLA, but he chose UC Berkeley because he believes they’ll help him meet his goals.
He also will have more time for his family.

“Nobody expects to have a big family,” he said. “But life has a way of changing your priorities.”

Reflecting back on his experiences, Rodriguez is thoughtful, maybe a little bit shy, and sincerely optimistic.

“It really is all about making that transition - giving yourself the best opportunity,” he said. “I think I was a little bit lucky.”

Release Date: 06/11/2012
Contact: Juan F. Gutierrez , Director, Public Relations
Phone: (626) 585-7315