Carlos Rodriguez is a young man on a mission. He wants to pay back all the people who believed in him and helped him navigate the sometimes intimidating pathway that ultimately led him to a UConn bachelor’s degree in urban and community studies. The list of helpers is a long one, but Rodriguez isn’t one to forget those who facilitated his journey.
For Rodriguez, who was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Hartford, the initial push came from an auto body teacher at A.I. Prince Technical School who told him that learning a trade was a good thing, but that getting a college degree would be even better.
With encouragement from that teacher, and despite a lack of enthusiasm from his guidance counselor even though he was president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, Rodriguez applied to a number of colleges. With a subsequent acceptance letter from UConn in hand, he began the journey.
“I think my family was even more excited than I was [by the acceptance letter],” Rodriguez says, “but I started at the West Hartford Campus the summer after high school in the Student Support Services [SSS] program which helps people like me who come from minority backgrounds make the transition to college. That’s where I met Mr. Brown [Robert Brown, manager of the SSS program at UConn’s Greater Hartford Campus, now retired], and he had so much confidence in me, he just wouldn’t let me fail even when I felt overwhelmed.”