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There are several things that I learned from my parents growing up in San Antonio, Texas. Two of those things were empowerment and service to one’s community. They empowered my siblings and me to take advantage of each and every educational opportunity out there
to better ourselves. They demonstrated community service through placing the needs of our family ahead of their own and always helping family and friends in their hour of need regardless of the material and financial limitations we had. We each define what community is to us individually. A community can be our immediate family, our network of friends, our co-workers, or our neighborhood.
My parents did not have a complete formal education growing up, which limited their opportunities. They did not want my siblings and me to experience those limitations. They pushed us to take advantage of whatever opportunities that were presented to us regardless of what they had to do to support us in those efforts. They knew those same opportunities were non-existent in Mexico, where they immigrated from in the late 1960s. There were both non-profit public and private institutions that provided us the needed resources in achieving our goals to getting a good education, ensuring we had options regardless of the circumstances we encountered. The options that were not available to my parents caused them to endure various discriminatory and prejudicial actions because of their ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
I wanted to give back to the United States for the opportunities and people who supported my siblings and me in achieving our goals for a better life with a plethora of options. All we had to do was go after those opportunities. There is a multitude of ways to serve our respective communities. I chose to do it through military service in the Army National Guard (ARNG).
The ARNG serves the local, state, and national communities, as well as the global community. The ARNG allowed me to serve in the military and begin my teaching and coaching career after I completed graduate school. I did not want to wait until I served in the Active-Duty Army to start teaching and coaching. I wanted to have the best of both worlds; serve as a professional career civilian and as a soldier to my community. Serving my country and my community, to help empower young people so they can go on to serve their respective communities and help better the country.
The ARNG assisted me to grow and develop as a leader and as a person. I have been a member of the ARNG in six different states: Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Virginia, and now, Pennsylvania. I have enjoyed serving alongside the different men and women of the ARNG. Having the chance to serve with people from various backgrounds and experience levels had me appreciate the uniqueness of people. It provided me with the opportunity to develop a cultural and societal understanding of people which has made me a better leader, teacher, coach, and person.
The amount of work to keep up with the individual training requirements to stay competitive and current in the ARNG is taxing. Maintaining a healthy balance between time with my family, teaching classes, coaching, serving in the ARNG, and completing any necessary military schooling requirements is daunting, and at times very overwhelming mentally and physically. But I owe it to this nation to do my best in giving back by serving my community. I have options in my life because I was provided opportunities to succeed. Now, my daughters can take advantage of their own opportunities to achieve their goals and dreams. I will continue serving in the ARNG as long as they allow me to do so because I enjoy it despite the challenges, and because of the continued support and patience given by my family to serve.
This blog post was authored by Rolando Rodriguez, WNA’s S.T.E.M. Department Chair.