(Fordham News profiled incoming freshmen breaking new ground as the first in their families to go to college.)
For Samantha Chavez-Rodriguez, an aspiring civil rights lawyer, the inspiration to study English at Fordham College at Lincoln Center came from a surprising place.
Chavez-Rodriguez, who “loves to read and write essays,” recalled a memorable day in her AP English language and composition course at Notre Dame High School in Salinas, California. Her teacher read a poem about nature and suddenly became emotional while reading it to the class.
“I’ve never met a teacher so passionate about teaching,” said Chavez-Rodriguez. “That stuck to me. I hope that I can have a job that I love so much that it brings me to tears.”
In the same class, Chavez-Rodriguez penned an essay on gender pay gaps; writing it inspired her interest in gender, race, and discrimination.
“I don’t think it’s fair that simply because someone is a woman or from a certain race, they are paid less,” she said. “That’s what mainly pushed me.”
When Chavez-Rodriguez wasn’t studying to get good marks in school, she was participating in countless student activities, from the student council to talent shows.
“I thought that if I got involved in various student activities, it would count for college” she said.
“I’m thankful that my parents went through as much as they did to get me to the point I’m at, but I also feel this obligation to them because my mom didn’t finish college.”
Chavez-Rodriguez said her work ethic was also driven by childhood memories of growing up in East Los Angeles, where her community was inundated with gangs, drugs, and poverty.
“I grew up seeing all of this. People didn’t expect much from my community, so it just motivated me that much more. Not only [did I want]to prove people wrong, but also to show that while the community you’re born in can affect you, if you have the will and a positive attitude about what you can achieve, you can accomplish it,” said Chavez-Rodriguez.
“Where you’re born and the circumstances that you’re born into doesn’t set the path for your future.”