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October 7, 2015

Ashley Rodriguez

Ashley Rodriguez could have been a statistic. Using drugs between 13 and 15, she dropped out of school in 10th grade and became a single parent at 16. 

Instead, two years later she joined Pathways to Success (P2S) — funded in part by SDWP — as a program participant in 12th grade. While simultaneously taking high school and college courses, she discovered a passion for Chicano studies with the help of her high school teacher Dawn Miller at Lindsay Blended Community School, a campus of the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) that caters to young mothers. Miller introduced Rodriguez to the field and told her about San Diego City College (SDCC) professor Rangel Cruz, with whom Rodriguez has now taken two Chicano studies courses.

“A lot of information has been suppressed by a very one-sided representation in history books,” says Rodriguez, who also credits Cruz with helping her connect the dots on issues like why a disproportionate number of minorities live in poverty or are incarcerated. Armed with new knowledge, she wants to be a teacher or counselor to empower future generations.

In addition to tapping into a new purpose, Rodriguez also received practical assistance from P2S. Its Work Readiness Program helped Rodriguez with interview clothing and shoes when she was job hunting; a bus pass to help her get to school and appointments; college supplies; incentives for completing an online class and for graduating high school; not to mention emotional support she received from the staff.

“The whole team really helped me, and were always wanting to know how my son and I were doing,” says Rodriguez. “It made them really happy to know that I had graduated and was starting college and that I was able to share that experience with my son.”

With the help of P2S and the rest of her support network, especially her mom, Ashley graduated high school earlier this year while simultaneously attending SDCC, where she is on track to finishing her sophomore year. She completed English, history and geometry with all A’s in her first semester.

She plans to transfer to California State University San Marcos, where she wants to study to become a counselor for JCCS or an ethnic studies teacher.

In the meantime, Rodriguez has been hired as a permanent employee with SDCOE after completing a 100-hour internship as a classroom assistant. She loves her current work as an assistant to the case managers at P2S, saying she gets to “dip into each caseload” and help many students not much younger than herself with work readiness.

“I hope to continue in this work,” says Rodriguez, “because I know what a benefit it is to students.”

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