At the young age of 17 Rod is the voice of a community that has been assigned neglect and abandonment by elected officials, community leaders, and those who live in the neighborhood. He has taken an early start to adulthood by insisting, in a quiet, almost subdued manner, that the lives of the children in the Oak Park area be recognized as a valued treasure. Rod is proof that poverty does not equal ignorance and there is power in one voice.
From his freshman year Rod and others, quickly recognized that Rod was a different type of student. He always asked questions and was never afraid of embarrassment. Not knowing that his questions gave clarity to a lesson plan and courage to his classmates to make inquiries of his own. His classroom work was always on time and surpassed expectations and the areas he found difficult he gave additional attention to and toiled until his work showed that he had gasped the concept and had learned the skill. As a student in the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Liberal Arts (MESL) Honors Academy formerly at Sacramento High School Rod was enrolled into rigorous coursework, which included honors and advanced placement classes. And while he excelled in all of his courses, it became clear early that mathematics was truly his natural strength.
In the past four years of high school Rod has amassed numerous honois in the area of math including the Steinberg award for outstanding achievement and awards at nearly every grade level. He was selected as a lunchtime tutor for the Academy and has worked as a paid math tutor for the University of California math project for students who were struggling in the subject. Rod has always had an open spirit towards helping others and as a peer tutor he facilitated math inquiry groups on complicated mathematical formulas and as well as basic math questions. His academic success is inspirational to students throughout the school district. Maintaining a 4.0 grade point average while taking the most challenging courses is no easy feat. Add to this the fact that he has worked a part time job throughout high school and played varsity sports and you have a student who is a role model for others. Rod’s persistence and perseverance in all tasks that he undertakes has set a standard for his peers, particularly for underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students.
Community service activities have also been a part of his high school endeavors. Rod has collected canned goods for Loaves and Fishes, clothing for homeless teenagers, and teddy bears for the wards at the Sacramento Children’s home. He has also made holiday cards for elementary students, been a pen pal to Elmhurst elementary students an Oakland, CA inner city school, and a mentor to expelled students in the Chess Academy. Add to this his selection to the Mayor’s Youth Commission and co-chair of a reading literacy program for Oak Park children and a record of outstanding achievement becomes clearly defined. The fact that Rod has been able to push himself towards excellence is remarkable in itself. Rod is a product of the Oak Park community. A location that is often associated in the media as a dangerous, drug infested, and violent place. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of truth in the reference, however, being poor does not equate to being ignorant, nor does it mean that the residents do not deserve equal and fair treatment in all matters of community respect. In his role as a youth commissioner Rod has been the lone person, including adults, to point out that the Oak Park area was actually missing from the map of the city outlining park improvements. To their credit, city officials quickly added the community based upon Rod’s concerns. This is truly a young man who places the needs of others above himself.
Rod’s family knows that he is their hope for a college educated child. His parent’s have supported their son in all of his pursuits even though they have not been able to help him with his homework since “sixth grade.” They have counseled their son about the neighborhood dangers, yet, according to Rod, he has been the oniy person in his family “not to have been shot at.” His parent’s financial status has always been a challenge. Only in recent years has his family achieved some level of economic security, but even now his mother has become unemployed through layoff and his father’s construction job depends on work availability. They desperately want their son to attend a university, and they know that they must depend on scholarships to do so. This is an extraordinary young man who has worked all of his life for a chance to go to college and earn a college degree. He does not want to flee his neighborhood, but wants to embrace it in his success. As he as done so throughout his stellar high school career, he wants to model for other students, of all backgrounds, the pathway to success and personal achievement.
Rod has endured tremendous challenges in his lifetime. Survival being one of them, the low expectations of those outside of his family and the MESL Academy, and stereotypical doubts of others who would base their assessment of him by his looks and his last name.