Looking at the two-week eviction notice on the door of the apartment she shared with her father, the reality of the situation for Southbridge native Carla Rodriguez – then a senior at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School – didn’t settle down until she spoke to a friend who cried upon hearing the news.
Now a student at Husson University in Maine, on track to apply to medical school and pursue her dream of becoming a surgeon, Rodriguez said she was able to overcome many obstacles in her life through perseverance. and with the help of a close friend. and their family.
“You don’t understand what the impact is on someone until you can see them grow because of what you helped them with,” she said.
Rodriguez said things were “not always the best” growing up. At age 9, when her parents divorced “due to domestic abuse,” she “basically raised my little sister,” she said.
“I had to teach him potty training and all that kind of stuff,” Rodriguez said. “Even though she was past the potty training age, I would leave the classroom to help her in the bathroom when we were in first grade and kindergarten.”
After the divorce, Rodriguez and his sister lived with their mother, while spending court-ordered weekends with their father. She continued to live with her mother until her second year of high school, when her mother kicked her out of the house.
“Her boyfriend and I didn’t get along very well. He often yelled at her the kind of things that sounded like my dad used to do, so I was trying to protect her,” Rodriguez said. “He got mad that I was trying to protect her, then she got mad that I was, so he morphed into telling her I have to get out of the house, and then she listened to him.”
She then lived with her father, who often split his time between Southbridge and the Dominican Republic where her own father lived, making sure to stock the fridge before he left to make sure she didn’t go hungry.
Initially, things were better living with her father, she said, as her grades improved enough to join the National Honor Society and become a SkillsUSA officer, as well as get involved in different extracurricular activities and sports.
But soon, her father’s visit to the Dominican Republic grew longer and the pressure to contribute to bills and rent increased.
“He was going to be gone for about a month, but something happened with his dad’s health,” Rodriguez said. “He was there a very long time trying to take care of himself and with all the medical stuff.”
Pay all bills
While at Bay Path, Rodriguez earned a CNA certification and got a professional co-op where during her workshop week she worked instead of going to school.
Never spending a penny of that money on anything else, she said she saved it to use for college expenses. But when the medical bills from his grandfather’s illness started piling up for his father, he asked him to contribute.
“I paid the rent twice, I paid the car bill twice, which … was his car, I paid internet and cable and all that stuff,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t necessarily want to. He told me I had to, so I paid all the bills.
But over time, she had to quit her job to focus on her classes and academic pursuits, which meant that all the money she spent on paying bills kept her from doing her laundry or to buy food.
In addition to school lunches, where friends would give him their leftovers, Rodriguez ate relish from the jar for sustenance.
On occasion, she would stay with a friend whose family let her do her laundry at their house and cook her meals, sending her home with the leftovers.
“When I received the eviction notice, it said that only two months had been paid out of the entire year at that time, and I was the one who paid for those two months,” Rodriguez said. . “He didn’t pay rent for the whole year before he left.”
Confused and not knowing what to do, she reached out to one of her closest friends to tell her about the situation.
Her friend immediately sprung into action, telling her that her mother was setting up a room for her to come and live with them.
Within a week her things were packed and she was living with her friend and family.
Her mother, whom she calls “Momma Rich,” a nickname derived from her surname, was the only parent figure she had at that time, she said.
“She was the one who taught me all about college applications and financial matters, what even taxes are and what a GPA is,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t know anything about it until I moved in with her senior year.”
When she lived in her father’s apartment, she used a giant teddy bear as a pillow and slept on a mattress so thin she could grab the springs from the top. At Momma Rich’s, she was given a more comfortable mattress to sleep on, with fresh sheets and a real pillow to rest her head on.
“I didn’t worry about all those things anymore. Obviously it was tough to get through, but it wasn’t something that I constantly worried about,” Rodriguez said.
Go to college
Thinking about where to apply, she first set her sights on the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, eventually settling on Husson University in Maine.
She chose Husson, she said, because the tuition was more affordable and they gave her better financial aid.
Scholarships, like the one she recently received from the Women’s Philanthropy Council, have helped pay for her education and make her path to medical school a reality.
His dream of becoming a surgeon
Now a double major in health sciences and psychology, after a pre-med track, Rodriguez is closer than ever to achieving her dream of becoming a surgeon – a dream that has helped her through some of the toughest times in her life. , she said.
“Since I knew what a job was, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, no matter what it took,” she said. “At the end of my freshman year, just before all of this happened, we went to a clinic at Harrington Hospital, and I got to watch two different surgeries and that’s when that everything really solidified.”
Since arriving at Husson, Rodriguez has dove headfirst into the college experience, becoming president of Delta Sigma Delta sorority, vice president of the school’s psychology club, and working with her advisor to start a science science club. health.
She also has two part-time jobs, one in the school library and the other as a behavioral health professional where she works in a residential facility with children on the spectrum as well as those with issues. of behavior.
“A lot of these behavioral issues are due to past trauma,” Rodriguez said. “My goal, ultimately, will always be to be a surgeon, but also with my major in psychology, I’m learning how trauma and childhood really affect the way you act.”
She said a lot of the kids she works with have a similar background to her in one way or another, and it’s “really nice” to be able to help them through something she has. crossed alone.
“When I take care of other people, I do it at work,” Rodriguez said. “I’m definitely having a lot more fun. I’ve always been independent, but now I feel like an individual.
After living on campus for her first two years, she now lives with friends in an off-campus apartment and is doing better mentally and socially.
The days of paying bills and rent with co-op money, using stuffed animals as pillows and eating spoonfuls of relish for dinner are now over as she prepares for the application process for the faculty of medicine.
Rodriguez has said she would like to return to Massachusetts and attend medical school in Boston, although she hasn’t decided which school she most wants to attend.
She looks at what Ivy League medical schools require for average admission and tries to aspire to get those qualifications to make her acceptance into any school more likely.
Rodriguez credited the help she’s received from people like Momma Rich – who she’s still close to and talks to on a regular basis – with helping her get here, as well as her desire to ‘give back’ and help others.
She gave the example of a clothing drive she recently organized at the residence where she works part-time to collect clothes for children who “have no real connection” with their parents and often come with very little.
“Momma Rich gave me back by letting me live in her house and eat her food, so I didn’t have to eat bottled relish anymore,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to give back to them and organize this clothing drive.”
#Carla #Rodriguez #dreams #surgeon