By Kim Hardware
Michelle Rodriguez of the South Bronx earned a degree in the school of hard knocks long before she was a five-time Dean’s List award recipient and part of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY). Back then, she was a 13 year-old homeless girl and this month, she graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Administration just one year after getting her Bachelor’s of Professional Studies in Human Services. To be sure, it’s not been an easy path, but Rodriguez has always had her eye on the prize.
“The biggest challenge for me was not the fast-paced curriculum, or juggling motherhood, or even working or night classes,” Michelle told thisistheBronX. “It was staying on course to success.”
No wonder. She suffered through the loss of two grandparents and, just when she enrolled in her Master’s program, her mother took seriously ill, not to mention the task of raising two daughters.
“But, I made it!” she exclaimed.
To survive homelessness through middle school, she supported herself by working as a live-in babysitter. Years later, while on a lunch break, she discovered there was to be a new college campus – MCNY – being built on 149th Street, just blocks from where she grew up. That discovery ultimately changed her life and laid the foundation for her future.
Now she’s giving back in her career as a Care Manager for the BronxWorks Care Coordination Program.
“Michelle joined the program one year ago and has worked to help improve the overall health outcomes of her clients and advocate on their behalf,” said George Irick, Program Director.
Rodriguez’ reliance on a foundation of education as a step-ladder for success has extended to her immediate family. Her daughter and son-in-law are now students at MCNY.
The sky, of course, is the limit for someone who can achieve impressively in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Michelle’s goals include buying a home for her family, opening up a family business, and yes, becoming a professor at MCNY.
“MCNY has changed my life in allowing me to see my true professional potential and I would be honored if I can do the same for others,” she said.
During 2020 graduation, Rodriguez was awarded the Kenneth Facey Memorial Scholarship-Academic Distinction Achievement Award. She is currently the Vice President of the Human Services Alumni Network for MCNY. She also served as a class assistant to her professors during both degree programs, helping her cohorts with their Constructive Action theses.