“To connect with students in meaningful ways regardless of

“To handle yourself, use your head; to
handle others, use your heart.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

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While I may
have not followed the direct path to a graduate program in student affairs, the
importance of providing emerging leaders and students with education and
support has always been a top priority of mine. Whether it was my experience as
a behavior technician, supporting my client’s autonomy and ability to learn, or
working with minority and at risk youth as a mentor, tutor and after school
counselor in City Year, my skills and experiences continue to develop my
ability to connect with students in meaningful ways regardless of their age or
background. Today I stand as a better version of the young woman I once was,
learning from my previous experiences, and reaching for new opportunities with
a desire to provide others the same support I’ve received.  

 

The
opportunity to be a part of a career in student affairs is one that I did not
initially imagine, nonetheless one that I feel fortunate to have discovered but
now tribute to the many influential people I’ve met throughout my own journey
as a student and as a maturing adult.  I believe that being able to reach
out to young adults and support them as the future leaders many are destined to
become is an important role and one that I am striving to be apart of.

 

As a first
generation student going to college was a dream that I shared not only for
myself but with my family as well. Unaware of what my experiences would be and
uncertain of whom I’d become, through my involvement with student run
organizations I found a new family and support system within the University of
South Florida. While most of my academic career at USF was health science
centered, I was still able to find true value within my involvement on campus.
Some of my more notable milestones were experienced as an undergraduate student
in the Honors College, where I was able to build close ties with peers as well
as develop my thesis on the young adults view of death and dying while working
closely with staff and faculty. Throughout my time at USF I was also able to
maintain a federal work study job as an office assistant for accounts
receivable, during those three years I focused on building a stronger
relationship with faculty on campus, while supporting my fellow peers whom were
struggling with financial issues or questions. In addition, I also had the
privilege of being a volunteer college tour guide, selected out of a large pool
of applicants we had the opportunity not only to get to know the campus on a
more personal level, but to present our joy and really connect with prospective
students and family members. Needless to say I became an expert with finding
many reasons why I loved, not only being a student on campus and experiencing
the growth that my time there allowed, but also being the first representation
of our diverse student body.

 

During my
recent years post graduation, I have come to understand what the meaning of
true service is. My time working as a behavior technician, fulfilling service
through City Year, and now my short but meaningful time in Peace Corps
Guatemala proves to me that there is no right or wrong path to take in the way
I can help others, so long as my motivation is well intended, I am able to find
the avenue to support others in limitless ways.

 

While a
recent security incident has influenced my decision to return to the United
States and put my dreams of being a volunteer aside for the time being, my
short 4 months here have not been in vain. I have not only learned a lot about
myself but also a lot about the rights, privileges and opportunities we have as
able bodies seeking education. The growth sustainable individuals can
experience with empowerment and the power of pushing through and finding light
in the darkness of difficult situations is a life lesson I will carry with me
throughout future endeavors. The work of student affairs extends far beyond the
number of events held, or how many people attend but instead on the ability to
build opportunity, belonging and growth for all whom seek higher education
regardless of age or background. I believe student affairs is founded on a
culture of positivity, understanding of ourselves, education, and a staple on
how we view the world around us during these prime years of education.

 

As I
continue to widen my understanding of what a career path in student affairs
entails, I find myself more drawn to being a part of a team of professionals
bringing out the best in their students, especially in the same community I am
apart of. If granted the opportunity to become a part of the Master of Science
in Higher Education Administration program I promise to put my best foot forth
academically, while being a contributing and active member of the Florida
International University family. – Estephany Rodriguez