“To connect with students in meaningful ways regardless of

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

“- Eleanor Roosevelt While I mayhave not followed the direct path to a graduate program in student affairs, theimportance of providing emerging leaders and students with education andsupport has always been a top priority of mine. Whether it was my experience asa behavior technician, supporting my client’s autonomy and ability to learn, orworking with minority and at risk youth as a mentor, tutor and after schoolcounselor in City Year, my skills and experiences continue to develop myability to connect with students in meaningful ways regardless of their age orbackground. Today I stand as a better version of the young woman I once was,learning from my previous experiences, and reaching for new opportunities witha desire to provide others the same support I’ve received.   Theopportunity to be a part of a career in student affairs is one that I did notinitially imagine, nonetheless one that I feel fortunate to have discovered butnow tribute to the many influential people I’ve met throughout my own journeyas a student and as a maturing adult.  I believe that being able to reachout to young adults and support them as the future leaders many are destined tobecome is an important role and one that I am striving to be apart of.

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 As a firstgeneration student going to college was a dream that I shared not only formyself but with my family as well. Unaware of what my experiences would be anduncertain of whom I’d become, through my involvement with student runorganizations I found a new family and support system within the University ofSouth Florida. While most of my academic career at USF was health sciencecentered, I was still able to find true value within my involvement on campus.Some of my more notable milestones were experienced as an undergraduate studentin the Honors College, where I was able to build close ties with peers as wellas develop my thesis on the young adults view of death and dying while workingclosely with staff and faculty. Throughout my time at USF I was also able tomaintain a federal work study job as an office assistant for accountsreceivable, during those three years I focused on building a strongerrelationship with faculty on campus, while supporting my fellow peers whom werestruggling with financial issues or questions. In addition, I also had theprivilege of being a volunteer college tour guide, selected out of a large poolof applicants we had the opportunity not only to get to know the campus on amore personal level, but to present our joy and really connect with prospectivestudents and family members.

Needless to say I became an expert with findingmany reasons why I loved, not only being a student on campus and experiencingthe growth that my time there allowed, but also being the first representationof our diverse student body.  During myrecent years post graduation, I have come to understand what the meaning oftrue service is. My time working as a behavior technician, fulfilling servicethrough City Year, and now my short but meaningful time in Peace CorpsGuatemala proves to me that there is no right or wrong path to take in the wayI can help others, so long as my motivation is well intended, I am able to findthe avenue to support others in limitless ways. While arecent security incident has influenced my decision to return to the UnitedStates and put my dreams of being a volunteer aside for the time being, myshort 4 months here have not been in vain.

I have not only learned a lot aboutmyself but also a lot about the rights, privileges and opportunities we have asable bodies seeking education. The growth sustainable individuals canexperience with empowerment and the power of pushing through and finding lightin the darkness of difficult situations is a life lesson I will carry with methroughout future endeavors. The work of student affairs extends far beyond thenumber of events held, or how many people attend but instead on the ability tobuild opportunity, belonging and growth for all whom seek higher educationregardless of age or background. I believe student affairs is founded on aculture of positivity, understanding of ourselves, education, and a staple onhow we view the world around us during these prime years of education. As Icontinue to widen my understanding of what a career path in student affairsentails, I find myself more drawn to being a part of a team of professionalsbringing out the best in their students, especially in the same community I amapart of.

If granted the opportunity to become a part of the Master of Sciencein Higher Education Administration program I promise to put my best foot forthacademically, while being a contributing and active member of the FloridaInternational University family. – Estephany Rodriguez