Student Success: The Rodriguez Sisters

Pregnant and Parenting Student Success: The Rodriguez Sisters

By Caroline Serrano

""Imagine a typical day for an undergraduate student. You—like most people—probably imagine a day full of class, friends, part time job or internship, and homework. Non-traditional students such as those who have children are often not considered. A typical school day for young mom and Communication Studies graduate, Julianna Rodriguez, consisted of much more.

After Julianna would wake up in the morning, she’d get herself and her son ready for the day. She’d then drop him off at his grandma’s house and rush back to CSULB to make it to her morning classes on time. When she was done with class for the day, she would pick up her son, cook dinner for them both, clean, play with her son, and then put him to bed. It was only after he fell asleep for the night that she could start focusing on homework and studying.

But she didn’t face this feat alone. Her older sister, Karla M. Rodriguez, was also a young mom on campus. Karla declares, “My sister and I almost lived the same life. We both are young parents, we both graduated with a Communication Studies degree and we both transferred [to CSULB] from Golden West College. Our experiences were almost unreal.”

""Both Karla and Julianna also helped pave new paths for the community of parenting students on campus. Karla, who was the ASI Pregnant and Parenting Students Commissioner at the time Julianna was pregnant, was able to help her find and utilize the various resources on campus. With Julianna’s newfound knowledge of this diverse community, she was able to fund and spearhead the first Pregnant and Parenting Students Club at CSULB.

Despite their success, they faced dismal odds. Julianna states, “As a young parent, my chances of going back to school were slim and of those, the odds of graduating were even smaller.” In the United States, about 26% of undergraduate students double as parents—that’s about 4.8 million parenting students (Gault, Cruse, Reynolds, & Froehner, 2014). Of those, less than 1 out of 10 will complete a bachelor’s degree within six years according to Pregnant on Campus, an Initiative by Students for Life of America.

""So, what helped Karla and Julianna achieve student success? Karla suggests that students should utilize all of the resources that CSULB has to offer. She asserts, “To me, student success was not being afraid to reach out to professionals working in departments I was interested in as well as seeking advice from professors who might know people working in the industry that I wanted to go in.”

Similarly, Julianna believes that students can be successful by learning more about themselves and growing into their passions. She states, “To me, student success meant that I was able to find a major that I am really interested in and graduate despite not fitting the traditional student criteria.”

Since graduating in May, their journey continues on similar paths. They are both continuing with their professional careers at Sony Pictures Entertainment—Karla as a Trainee in the finance department and Julianna as a National Publicity and Marketing Intern. In addition to this, Karla also works at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences where she focuses mainly on writing, directing, and producing. Karla proclaims, “Who knows, maybe soon I’ll write about my college experience and pitch it to a network to showcase the adversity, struggle, and determination of parenting students.” To the Rodriguez sisters, I say keep on achieving, and go beach!