Betsy Rodriguez: A Journey of Determination and Achievement

Wednesday June 26, 2024

First-generation students, often referred to as “first-gens,” are college-bound individuals whose parents did not pursue higher education. This significant milestone represents a break from familial and often socio-economic traditions, symbolizing hope, perseverance, and the pursuit of greater opportunities. For many first-gens, the journey to higher education is fraught with unique challenges and triumphs. Below is one in a series of stories about Kern County first-gens as they embark on the next chapters of their lives.

To nominate someone for a story in this series, please reach out to communcations@kern.org

Betsy Rodriguez, a first-generation college student, exemplifies the power of perseverance and dedication. Celebrating her remarkable academic success, Betsy graduated as valedictorian from Rosamond High School earlier this month. She is now set to attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo to major in architecture.

Rodriguez’s drive is deeply rooted in her family’s experiences. Her mother, who had to forgo higher education to support her family, and her stepfather, an immigrant who worked tirelessly, instilled in her the value of hard work and education. The loss of her biological father at a young age further reinforced her determination to succeed.

“I am the first-generation Mexican daughter of two parents who were not offered the chance to achieve their dreams,” Rodriguez explained. “Because they had to settle for less, I refuse to let that happen to me.”

Throughout her academic journey, Rodriguez excelled, maintaining a 4.0 GPA or higher in high school. Her passion for learning was evident in her academic pursuits, from honors and AP classes to participating in mathletes. She looked to her parents and older siblings for inspiration.

“My mom always motivated me to do well in school. And my dad always wanted us to do the best we can and take advantage of what opportunities we have,” she said. 

Rodriguez’s high school years were filled with meaningful activities. As senior class vice president, she organized events and rallies, and as part of her video production class, she directed a music video that played at her graduation.

“I did two years of it and it was my favorite class,” she said.  

Rodriguez took advantage of Rosamond High School’s early college program and has taken six college courses since her sophomore year, transferring those credits to Cal Poly and giving her a head start on her college education.

Rodriguez and her friends applied to colleges together supporting each other through the process. That hard work paid off when she was accepted into nine of the 11 colleges she applied to, including UCLA and USC. She says she chose Cal Poly because of its architecture program and the chance to hit the ground running.

“I like how they give you a lot of experience. They’ll have you doing hands-on work on your major right away,” she said. “Their philosophy is Learn By Doing, so you have to start with these huge design projects.”

At Cal Poly, Rodriguez is excited to explore majors in architecture and environmental design. She is particularly interested in city and regional planning and construction management and aims for a career in design and planning. She also looks forward to the school’s study abroad program in her senior year. She hopes to travel to Europe, particularly Italy and London, to expand her horizons and experience personal growth.

“I feel like it’ll help me come out of my shell more,” she said. “It’ll open me up to a lot of opportunities and just help me grow as a person overall.”

Rodriguez’s hard work has been recognized through various scholarships, including a $10,000 first prize from the Southern California Union of Food Workers, where her mother has worked for years. This, along with financial aid and ongoing scholarship applications, has alleviated the financial burden of college.

Betsy Rodriguez with her father and three sisters.

Excited to live in a larger city, Rodriguez looks forward to the independence and growth that Cal Poly will offer, though she knows Rosamond and her family are just a three-hour drive away.

“It’ll be a good experience for me to learn how to be on my own, to rely on myself and be independent. But I know that my family will always be here, and I’ll always be able to come back,” she explained.

As she embarks on this new chapter in her life, Rodriguez hopes to make a significant impact in her field and inspire others with her story.

“If you set your mind to something it’s very easy to get there with discipline and motivation,” she said. “You have to believe in and push yourself to do the best you can, take advantage of every opportunity you can, and you have to work hard.”

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.