Sarah Rodriguez

Sarah Rodriguez

Photo by James Tensuan, '15 Photojournalism

Dean's Scholar

Major: Child and Adolescent Development
Connie L. Lurie College of Education

Why did you choose your major?

While growing up in an underprivileged neighborhood I was exposed to various injustices and educational inequalities. Moreover, the lack of resource in my city made me realize that I wanted to make a difference. I decided that Child and Adolescent development with a Community Focus, aligned best with my values and future aspirations. This major allows me to work directly with families and children who are marginalized by our society. Moreover, I chose this major because I am certain that this path will prepare me with the best tools to one day accomplish my goal of opening my own non-profit organization.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

As a first-generation college student, I was always afraid of not being able to succeed in college. Receiving this award has provided me with a sense of motivation, to keep pursuing my goals despite any challenges that I may encounter. I also feel that receiving this award is a representation that anything is possible with hard work, dedication, and passion. I feel very honored to be recognized by SJSU.   

Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life? In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.

My academic success at SJSU would not be possible without the constant support and motivation that I receive from the wonderful individuals that surround my life. The first individual that has contributed to my success is my mom. My mom resembles a powerful, hardworking, and educated woman. My mom has taught me the importance of living life without any doubts or fears, and most importantly she has taught me to love life unconditionally. My mother radiates optimism and love and I am genuinely thankful for her existence. Next, I would like to thank my friends Gustavo and Jose, who have become my family at SJSU. Both individuals are constantly supporting me whether it’s through listening to my doubts or staying up until 3 am to study, I am truly thankful for both individuals.

The Child & Adolescent department (ChAD) at SJSU is composed of many knowledgeable and passionate professors. One of the first professors that have contributed to my success at SJSU is Prof. Janene Perez. Prof. Janene Perez has shared her passion for the non-profit sector and has inspired me to keep pursuing my career goals. I recognize Prof. Janene Perez for gracefully dealing with various roles within the ChAD department. She serves the SJSU community with great devotion and is eager to serve all students. Another faculty member I would like to express my gratitude for is Dr. Dina Izenstark. Dr. Dina Izenstark serves as a great role model and mentor. She exemplifies a passionate educator who genuinely wants all her students to succeed. Lastly, I would like to thank Mathew Stowe an academic advisor at the Educational Opportunity program on campus. I will always be grateful for his constant words of encouragement, and optimism.

Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.

Making the decision of coming to SJSU has been a very life-changing experiencing. Moving seven hours away from home has shaped me by becoming grateful for where I come from. Although I am a third year at SJSU, I still occasionally become homesick. This challenge has allowed me to become appreciative of my humble home and city. I know that after I graduate I want to give back by helping the underprivileged youth and families from my city.

What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

As a future educator, I hope to inspire all students to pursue academic excellence. I want to inspire students by telling them that education is a powerful weapon to have. In the midst of a chaotic society, having an education empowers an individual to spark a difference in others. Moreover, I encourage students to build connections with others. Creating a network system is essential as it provides an opportunity to build lifelong friendships or build on your professional development. I would also encourage SJSU students to take advantage of the “Coffee with a Professor Program”. This program is a great resource that allows students to create a personal connection with the faculty members of SJSU.   

What makes you a Spartan?

I believe that a Spartan is an individual who is involved within the SJSU community and who is also involved in their own community. Throughout my time at SJSU I have been involved in several organizations such as EOP, ChAD club, Chicanx/Latinx Success Center, and Cesar Chavez Community Action Center. I have also volunteered various hours to organizations within the San Jose community such as Third Street Community Center, and Santa Maria Urban Ministry.


Nominated by Dina Izenstark
Professor, Child & Adolescent Development

"Sarah is not only an outstanding student (as evidenced by her name on the Dean's list) but she also takes an active role in helping the university and campus community. She currently serves as an EOP Ambassador (speaking to prospective SJSU high school students), works as an undergraduate research assistant in my lab, and plays a key role for a non-profit organization as the Director of the Teen Leadership program. She truly is one of our "best and brightest" students."

Also nominated by Janene Perez
Professor, Child & Adolescent Development

"Sarah is one of our newer students in the ChAD department. She just began her upper division courses last semester and has taken them on with great tenacity! You may recognize her from the EOP social media sites where she does a weekly video updating students on upcoming events. Sometimes this is in costume (as part of the Addams family) or through a catchy song the EOP group has created. She is also active with the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center and truly takes advantage of the community we have on campus. Sarah is one of those students that lights up the room - with her engagement, enthusiasm, and true love of being at SJSU."