Below is the story from one of our esteemed students who will graduate next month. His story is compelling and enriching as he remembers his past, appreciates the opportunity at CSUF, and advances his career. I hope you will find motivation from his story and congratulate him on his accomplishments. His struggle and challenges are like so many of our CSUF students – I applaud their resiliency, tirelessness, and courage.
Irene Matz, Associate Professor
My Story: Esteban Rodriguez Jr.
As a son of Mexican immigrants, I share a similar story with many in America. My life has been filled with diversity, challenges, successes, and failures. Nevertheless, I would not change these life experiences because they have led me to what I have today, a beautiful family, a firefighter career, great relationships, and now a degree in higher learning.
These life accomplishments are drastically different from what was expected of me as a product of the San Gabriel Valley during the last part of the 20th century. Although I was raised in a home with loving parents, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poverty, and neighborhood gangs were also factors in my life. Influenced by hope and necessity, I challenged myself to get out of the “neighborhood” and pursue a firefighter career. Trying to break into a profession filled with people who had different social views regarding race, gender roles, social class, and politics proved to be tough at times. Nonetheless, I became a professional firefighter with hard work, assistance from mentors, and a relentless drive. I currently hold the rank of fire captain with the West Covina Fire Department and have held various positions serving the community for 25 years. Intending to become an assistant fire chief for my organization, I decided to work towards furthering my education by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in human communication. This facet of my life has been coupled with balancing my family and career lives.
For the last 12 years, I have been on my educational journey. Fortunately, I was not alone in this endeavor. My family provided unwavering support by encouraging me to keep doing my best in college while at the same time understanding our sacrifice away from each other provided me an opportunity to build my academic career as well as professional advancement. Moreover, I applied the relationships I fostered in the fire stations and components of my diverse work environment as learning examples during my education at CSUF, thus making my education applicable to real-life situations. As a result, I grew as a student, leader, and member of society, with the intent to be a better person. Through the support and collaboration with my classmates and professors, I obtained what no one could ever take away from me, enduring knowledge.
Moving forward in life, I plan to use what I have learned and experienced at CSUF for not only the betterment of my personal and professional worlds but in helping my communities. Through my academic development, I am more reflective, transformative, and able to build and maintain positive relationships. I also learned that I have the power to remain open-minded and listen to the views of others even though I may disagree with them. In addition, I plan to continue mentoring individuals, whether they are aspiring to become firefighters or students of higher education. I will move ahead, remembering where I came from, acknowledging the various people who helped me along the way, and understanding that I could not have gotten to where I am without the assistance of others.
I believe that embracing what I have each day will also be as significant as planning for what is ahead. If not, I will lose sight of who and what is truly important to me in life, family, friends, and creating positive impacts with others. My education at CSUF has provided me with the tools necessary to keep and advance these significant elements at the forefront for a lifetime.