Rodriguez earns scholarship, attends national leadership conference

Paulina RodriguezA passion for Hispanic rights advocacy has earned Linfield College sophomore Paulina Rodriguez a prestigious scholarship and a seat at a national leadership conference.

Rodriguez was one of 20 students awarded the 2013 Dr. Juan Andrade Scholarship and she attended the National United States Hispanic Leadership Institute’s national conference Feb. 14-17 in Chicago, Ill.

She is the daughter of Isela Rodriguez of Newberg and a 2011 graduate of Newberg High School.

For Rodriguez, a sophomore majoring in Spanish and sociology, interest in equal rights developed at an early age. After moving from Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua, Mexico, to Newberg at age 8, Rodriguez’s fellow elementary school students teased her on the bus about saying words incorrectly or with an accent. This sparked something inside Rodriguez. She began to recognize the intolerant outlook toward immigrants and gained a thirst to learn more about Latino history and inequalities among all Americans.

“I know that I am privileged to have the opportunity to obtain the education that I have thus far,” said Rodriguez in one of her scholarship winning essays. “For this reason I want to use this education to fulfill my aspirations of helping others. My passion for fighting against inequalities was shaped the moment I entered this country. Everywhere I looked, it said that this was a country made up of immigrants but nowhere did I get the message that Mexicans were accepted.”

The National United States Hispanic Leadership Institute’s national conference gave Rodriguez the opportunity to meet determined Hispanic leaders who paved the way for many Latinos in the U.S.

“It was great. I got the chance to listen to very influential speakers that really affected me and the way I thought about equal rights,” said Rodriguez. “They are now role models that I hope one day to be like.”

As the first member in her family to go to college, Rodriguez attributes her success to her involvement in extracurricular activities, encouraging high school and Linfield faculty members and her mother’s never-ending support.

“In high school I was unaware of how the educational system worked, so I didn’t know how to get into college. Upward Bound helped me when I needed to get done with the ACTs and SATs, how to apply for scholarships and ended up being my main support system,” said Rodriguez.

At Linfield, Rodriguez is a member of Hawaiian Club, Upward Bound and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.).

She tries to help others achieve academic success by creating a support system that she considers many Latinos and students in general are lacking. Last semester she volunteered at McMinnville High School, tutoring English Language Learners in math and science.

“I try my best to get them motivated to do well in school and let them know that they are not alone in their journey,” said Rodriguez in one of her scholarship winning essays.

Once she is done with her undergraduate studies at Linfield, Rodriguez plans to volunteer with the Peace Corps or Teachers Without Borders. She also hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a degree in either public policy or public administration.

“I hope to make policy changes to better society and make a real difference,” said Rodriguez. “I want to implement policies on education or health care because they are topics that really affect Latinos the most. I want to become a role model and help others like I’ve been helped so much in life.”


By Alyssa Townsend ’15