discussion with a scholar – a valencia scholarship recipient story

(l to r) Jen Bhagirath, Valencia Foundation scholarship coordinator, and Elizabeth Rodriguez

(l to r) Jen Bhagirath, Valencia Foundation scholarship coordinator, and Elizabeth Rodriguez

Elizabeth Rodriguez is special; she has the drive and determination of someone twice her age. She was a speaker at our November board meeting and agreed to spend a few extra minutes with us to share more about her story.

She knew early exactly what she wanted to do. In 7th grade, she decided she wanted to study psychology and from that beginning she hasn’t thought of anything else. She did round out her goals by adding education to her list of future majors.

So ready was she to start her college career, she graduated from high school early with the help of online classes and dual enrollment. She says of her decision, “I wanted to do something better and greater, start my education already.”

When she met with her guidance counselor she knew two things, that she was graduating early and that she wanted to go to UCF. Valencia’s DirectConnect to UCF was “it” and with the automatic transfer offered through our partnership with UCF, the decision was perfect for her.

The fact that education is important was constantly reinforced at home. She remembers that ever since kindergarten her parents were making sure she was reading and doing her homework. Achieving high marks can be hard, but she says that she is grateful to have someone there to tell her she should do better.

And to make it even more fitting, her mother is a Valencia alumna and studied accounting at the Osceola campus. Her mom remembers when the campus was portables and is amazed at how much the campus has flourished through the years.

While she was ready for her start at Valencia, she acknowledges that coming into the college environment from high school can be shocking and there are so many things going on. The advice she would give to students is “to put themselves out there to look for scholarships and to definitely apply for a Valencia Foundation scholarship because it is easy and so straightforward. Scholarships are there and ready to be given away.”

Elizabeth found her way to scholarships by asking during her registration process. She was directed to our website, filled out an application and was chosen as a recipient of the Foreman Family Scholarship.

When she found out about the scholarship, she thought, “What? Is this real?” Then she talked to her mom and they confirmed the good news and excitement ensued. She was so thankful for the scholarship because it meant she could go to school over the summer, taking the financial burden off of her parents.

Elizabeth extends her heartfelt thanks to the Foreman Family, from her family to theirs a big thank you. Isn’t it wonderful how the actions of one family provide an opportunity that affects another entire family? That is the truth of scholarships, far more than simply a donation; your gift has the potential to have a positive effect on a family. Not just financially, but in terms of being a role model for siblings or cousins and proving the fact that there are people out there who are willing to help fund dreams.

Elizabeth is so grounded and easy to talk to; she is well-fitted for a career in psychology. When she envisions her private practice, she hopes to help adults, those that just don’t know how to cope with illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder. She has a respect and understanding for those who have a mental illness, acknowledging that it is not something a person has control over. Embarrassment and stigma might stop people from getting help and that can be much worse.

As for her other area of study, education, that came from having such a passion for education growing up. It is a gift she wants to give to others. “I’ve had many great teachers that have influenced me and made me the person that I am today. I thought that would be something amazing to experience and hopefully be that person for a student.”

She remembers her creative writing teacher in high school, Justin Helm, and how his own studies fueled her passion for psychology. At Valencia, she enjoyed Dr. Lubold’s abnormal psychology class because the focus was on learning.

Through talking with academic advisors and professors, Elizabeth has her education plan in place and her goal is to have her doctorate by the time she is 25. I have no doubt this amazing scholar will do just that, reaching her goals and beyond.

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