Aida Rodriguez

Palm Beach State College
Country of origin: Mexico

Aida Rodriguez, a native of Mexico, received her Associate in Arts degree from Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, FL, with honors in May 2013 and is also the 2013 recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which will allow her to complete her bachelor’s degree at a university. She is enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. The scholarship will pay up to $30,000 per year for two to three years to cover tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees. She is among 73 students nationwide to receive the scholarship.

“I was overfilled with joy to know that I had been one of 73 awarded the scholarship,’’ Rodriguez said. “Without it I would struggle to finish my undergraduate career. It’s not just about the honor and prestige; it’s really about how it has changed my life. It has made things possible for me that would not be possible without it.”

The competitive scholarship from the Virginia-based Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is awarded annually to top community college students with financial need. Students do not apply directly to the foundation. Instead community colleges can nominate up to four students. Rodriguez is the fifth Palm Beach State student ever to receive the scholarship.

Rodriguez came to the United States with her parents when she was six years old. In 2010, she graduated from South Tech Academy charter school where she studied cosmetology. While she liked styling hair, she soon realized that would not be her ultimate career. “I have always been an honors student always getting high grades. I knew I had to go to college,” said Rodriguez, whose goal is to eventually earn a doctorate in social psychology and work with disadvantaged youth.

At Palm Beach State, she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society and was actively involved in student clubs ASPIRA and Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER). She served as core leader of SWER and editor of “Sabiduría,” the peer review journal for the College’s Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College. She also was a peer mentor for the Dr. Kathryn W. Davis Global Education Center on the Lake Worth campus.

CCCIE’s Q. & A with Aida Rodriquez:

How has your experience at Palm Beach State College affected you?

In the three years I have been at Palm Beach State College I have developed academically and personally. I found numerous academic and leadership opportunities that have empowered me to persevere. I met wonderful people who have guided me and motivated me to have ambitious goals and to work hard to achieve them.

What do you think was most meaningful or helpful for you while enrolled at Palm Beach State College, and how do you think this will help you in the future?

The moral and financial support I have received at Palm Beach State College has led me to where I am today—a 2013 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Scholar and attending the University of Pennsylvania. When I graduated from high school I felt lost and did not have hope to attend college because of my immigration status. When I came to the college I found a network of individuals and organizations that have offered me the opportunities to accomplish my goals. The life-long relationships I have made at Palm Beach State have had a great impact on my life and will continue to do so.

As you know, Congress is considering Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) legislation. Why do you think this legislation is important? How do you think CIR will impact the lives of immigrants and our society?

Indeed, the United States is a country of laws but it is also a country of immigrants. Comprehensive Immigration Reform is long overdue. The criminalization of immigrants caused by enforcement-only immigration policies is unjust and something has to be done to stop the separation of fathers, mothers, and children. Comprehensive Immigration Reform will allow immigrants to live and work with dignity and peace of mind.