FSU Senior to Help Low-Income Youth Through Prestigious Teach for America Program

FSU Senior to Help Low-Income Youth Through Prestigious Teach for America Program

May 4, 2016

Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Boston, Fernando Rodriguez often found himself censored by teachers when he tried to open up a dialogue about race, economic inequality and other issues that were impacting his life. Rodriguez says it created a sense of frustration that caused him to disengage from his classes and prevented him from excelling academically.

Now the Framingham State senior is getting a chance to be a mentor to a group of students in Boston facing the same challenges he did growing up. Rodriguez was recently selected for the prestigious Teach for America Program, which places top college students in low-income schools in order to help at-risk students. 

“I want to help these kids find their voice,” says Rodriguez, a sociology major. “I was raised in the same neighborhoods and grew up with similar struggles. I think it always helps when you understand where someone is coming from.”

Rodriguez has thrived since arriving at Framingham State, where he has emerged as a social justice activist and leader among his peers. He helped found Student Leaders of Inclusion and Diversity, to help first-generation students overcome the culture shock many face when they first arrive at college. He also leads a new initiative called Brother to Brother, a support group aimed at addressing the low retention rates among men of color in college through mentorship and professional development.

After graduating this spring, Rodriguez will spend the summer going through the Teach for America training program, prior to being placed at the Kipp Academy Middle School in Mattapan, where he will teach English as a Second Language.

“I’ll be teaching kids who are struggling to adapt to the English language and culture,” Rodriguez says.

The interview process for Teach for America is strenuous and involves a group interview where each candidate is asked to come up with a lesson plan on the spot. Rodriguez did his on privilege and the social economic divide.
Sociology Professor Patricia Sánchez-Connally, who has been a close mentor to Rodriguez, says he is passionate about learning and will be a great role model for his students.

“He’s always eager to not only learn more but help others become aware of issues affecting young people of color,” says Sánchez-Connally. “He’s dedicated, persistent, resilient and goal oriented.”

Rodriguez ultimately wants to influence higher education policy and envisions himself in an administrative or legislative role one day.

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,000 students with 58 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a State College and University (SCU), Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.