In the Community
Letty Rodriguez grew up in Pacoima, a community in Los Angeles where many youth live in poverty, join gangs, and drop out of school. Going to college or knowing how to make positive changes in their community were not common aspirations. Yet Letty decided to better herself—and to improve the lives of those around her.
Her inspiration? Her mother, who raised five daughters while at one point juggling school and two jobs. “She, my sisters and I all motivate each other to excel,” says Letty, “but we also remind one another that others in our community are still struggling, and so it is our responsibility to do something to give back.”
Letty was politically active from her teens, serving as president of her senior class and participating in the Los Angeles Youth Council and Young Senators Program. With a vision of a career in civic engagement, Letty was admitted to Stanford University. At the time, however, her parents were not making enough money and so it was going to be difficult to pay for college tuition. A scholarship from Hispanic Scholarship Fund helped make college possible.
In college, Letty got involved in youth after-school programs aimed at increasing academic skills and college matriculation rates for students in East Palo Alto, a community near Stanford that mirrors Letty’s native Pacoima and where youth have limited resources and opportunities.
Letty ultimately gained her bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in education from Stanford University. She always knew that she would come home and give back to the community. Letty now serves as Community Relations Manager for Project GRAD Los Angeles, whose goal is to increase high school graduation rates and prepare graduates for success in college. Letty is responsible for all community outreach and has an opportunity to interact with elected officials, community businesses and nonprofit organizations. Best of all, she has the chance to work with parents and students to achieve their dreams and improve the community as a whole.
“My mother always told us that a college education is the key to success,” says Letty. “Perhaps I’m an idealist, but I believe that one day youth who come from traditionally disadvantaged communities will have the same opportunities to succeed that I have had.”