Wendy Rodriguez - Claremont McKenna College

If I rewind back to February/March of last year, I had recently finished presenting a play production of Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge and along with my family had moved into our new residence after being unfairly evicted from the home I had known my entire life. This period cannot be described as having a pleasant stroll in the park as I was overwhelmed by the home-hunting in crazy expensive Los Angeles, my responsibilities as the eldest of three and student director/stage manager of a play, as well as my ongoing commitment to my volunteer shifts at the hospital. It was a hard bump on the road that is for sure. I could not really bask in the accomplishments that had taken twelve years to savor because I felt guilty; my family and I were living in a kitchen-less, two-roomed space in the back of a house someone had kindly offered to rent for us. I had earned a full ride scholarship through Questbridge to Claremont McKenna College, a renowned liberal arts institution, had officially represented my class as the Salutatorian, and had recently been on the television as a Cool Kid on ABC7 News. You would think I would be jumping of happiness because my life plans were starting to come into fruition, but I could not bring myself to fully enjoy them. Being an optimist though, I began adapting to my new reality, taking into account that I had more reasons to be happy than not. I as well as my family continued on with our lives, forming a home as the unit we always were and will continue to be through the good and bad. On graduation day, I did walk the stage despite people’s low expectations for a female Chicana at a public school. That day my parents and grandparents had also earned a diploma. They were not able to even finish an elementary education because of the lack of resources in a small pueblo of Mexico. Once they were pursuing the American dream, they made sure to instill the value of education in the family’s youth. I was the first of my extended family to decide to go on to higher learning and I could not be more proud because I would hopefully plant the seed that would be nurtured by the following generations.

A couple months later, I experienced another transition into my freshman year of college. I remember having mixed emotions as I stepped foot on campus. For the first time, I would be rooming with someone of my age as opposed to my younger brothers. It took awhile for me to feel comfortable even though everyone around me offered a kind, welcoming gesture. Over the course of the first semester, I began to form a home away from home with the people that have built a supportive community for me.
Now, we are in the present with the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. I had to abruptly place a pause on my on-campus experience and now have to continue my studies through online instruction in a home that has yet to become well-adapted as a learning space. Living in a multi-generational household can be rewarding yet difficult to cherish as a full-time student. I am challenged by the newly recovered chore tasks, limited study space (with a makeshift desk that is normally used as a sacred place for religious purposes), unemployment of my parents, lack of technology for three students, and the uncertainty that surrounds this crisis. These, though, are all obstacles that I am fortunate enough to say that I have support in overcoming. My school, from the start, has put in all their efforts in accommodating students with whatever means they have. My parents have remained strong through these tough times. I have found that communication is key! I inform my parents and brothers of my weekly schedule which I have tried to adapt the best I can to their schedules so that our clashing, which can become inevitable at times in our living arrangement, is reduced. I have taken this as a golden opportunity to continue learning about adulting while having fun and spending more time with my family. To keep my mindfulness in check, I continue practicing yoga, now in the company of my family. I have started tutoring the youngest (his schooling has been cancelled without any plans for instruction) and have begun teaching my little cousins, who do not have any teaching guidance at home, through Zoom.

I find these actions continue feeding my spirit of service. I remain hopeful for tomorrow; tomorrow will be better than today with ongoing dedication and commitment to the healthy future of the family and world at large.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Wendy Rodriguez is a freshman at Claremont McKenna College where they are interested in pursuing a major in neuroscience as a premed student. In high school, they found a passion for volunteerism after helping their local hospital’s Community Benefits and Dietary departments for two years. They continue their volunteer efforts with their school’s College Programming Board and Food Recovery Network and hope to expand their spirit of service with children as a pediatrician.