Mrs. Rodriguez was born in Ukiah, California, where her parents worked in the pear and grape fields and in the logging industry. Her family relocated to Tangancicuaro, Mexico, shortly after she started grade school. She was able to continue going to school for a while, but had to drop out before completing high school.
Mr. Rodriguez, the youngest of his siblings, was born and raised in Tangancicuaro. Work was scarce in Mexico, and his father crossed the border seasonally to work in the fields of California and Oregon as a “bracero,” under a US/Mexico farm labor agreement, to support a family of 14. He says it was only due to his father’s labors that he had the opportunity to finish his high school education in Mexico.
The couple met and made their way back to Ukiah, California, where they live today. Despite many obstacles, including having to learn a new language and constantly relocating in search of employment, they were determined to succeed.
They are filled with pride for the educational successes of their children. Their eldest son, Vicente, a recent HSF Alum, graduated from Sonoma State University and majored in Finance. Their middle child, Alejandro, an HSF-Gates Millennium Scholar, is currently attending University of California, Davis, and majoring in Civil Engineering.
The HSF-Gates Millennium Scholarship program, now in its closing years, is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and annually awarded full tuition and expenses toward a bachelor’s degree, to the top 1,000 high-potential, low-income, minority students in the US, from 2000 through 2016.
A new program, The Gates Scholarship, also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and administered solely by HSF, will award 300 top performing, Pell-eligible, minority students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, annually, for 10 years, starting in 2018.
The eldest Rodriguez sons are not only setting a strong example for their brother, Oscar, who is currently in high school, but have also inspired their parents to return to school to earn their GEDs.
The parents are already giving back to their community by helping those in need of translators. Mrs. Rodriguez, a hospital receptionist, helps English-speaking doctors communicate with their Hispanic patients. And Mr. Vicente, an automobile mechanic, explains the solutions to car problems in Spanish, to his non-English-speaking, Latino customers.
Both express gratitude for the financial assistance their sons have received and add that HSF’s impact goes well beyond that by “exposing… [their boys] to “workshops, networking events, conferences, and leadership institutes to learn valuable information.” These programs have not only helped their sons gain important knowledge, skills, and contacts, but also enabled them to bring what they learned back to their family and community.
Their advice to students who are preparing to attend college: “No matter how far a goal or a dream seems, it can be achieved. We encourage every student to take advantage of every educational opportunity presented, starting with informing yourself, in order to obtain access to those opportunities.”