About 19 years ago, a teenage girl in her junior year of high school fell in love. The summer before her senior year she became pregnant. Soon she married her high school sweetheart, but she knew that no matter how difficult her life was to become she had to finish high school even if it meant going to summer school.
She finished high school while pregnant and later went to a business school and got her executive secretarial certificate. Then she decided she wanted to stay home and raise her daughter. After three years she had her second child, and when he was 2, she thought of going to college. She did just that and during those years, while earning her associate’s degree, she had two more children. It took her a long time, but she eventually finished. Today, that teenager is the writer of this column.
I am a senior at Rider majoring in Human Resources Management. I can’t believe how fast my years at Rider have gone. I also cannot believe that my oldest child is in college at the same time as her mother! I remember when I first returned to college some time after achieving my associate’s degree. I started at The College of New Jersey taking microeconomics and calculus. That first semester was the hardest of all my college years. I would rush to make it to a 4 p.m. class after picking up my daughter from preschool and dropping her off at home so my older daughter could watch her. I remember running to class overwhelmed because the calculus course was so difficult. It had been nine years since my last math class. Everyone in the class was right out of high school with math still fresh in their minds. I questioned whether or not I did the right thing in coming back to school.
Feeling isolated at TCNJ, I decided to attend Rider University. It was the best move I could have made. The faculty and staff encouraged me and made me feel welcome.
Dr. Steven Lorenzet was my professor for Introduction to Human Resources Management my first semester at Rider. His interest in his students and his ability to teach the course material helped me to realize that human resources was an area of study I wanted to pursue and, perhaps, a career path I would take.
Another special person I want to acknowledge is my adviser, Christine Defrehn. Last semester, Christine contacted me about an internship she thought I would have interest in pursuing. For days I debated with myself and came up with every excuse not to apply. I gave Christine a call and left a message telling her I wasn’t going to apply for the internship. She later called me and said, “Ruth, I think you are getting cold feet.” Somehow, deep inside, I knew she was right. Besides a summer job in high school and weekends working at my uncle’s store, I had not worked outside my home. I finally got up enough courage and applied. The good news eventually came. Of seven applicants, I was hired along with another Rider student.
In May 2008 I will graduate, hopefully still with a 4.0 GPA and as a member of Sigma Iota Epsilon and Beta Gamma. I will then begin work for pay after all these years of being a stay-at-home mom.
I truly want to thank Rider University for its acknowledgement of the non-traditional learner. It is very encouraging for the non-traditional learner to know there are universities that value us and see the importance for those returning to college or starting their college education later in life. It says to me, “We matter.” Life doesn’t always unfold as perfectly as you wish and one has to learn to overcome those obstacles. However, having the support from the University, its staff and faculty, my husband of 19 years as well as my four children, has made my journey much easier.
Ruth Rodriguez, an undergraduate from the College of Continuing Studies, gave the student address at the Founder’s Day Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 3 as she was recognized as an Andrew J. Rider Scholar. This honor is bestowed on students with the highest cumulative GPA from the five colleges. This letter is excerpted from that speech.