Gabriela Rodriguez

By Bianca Byrd and Carlos Garcia

Gabriela Rodriguez is the Title V Grant Director for “Proyecto Éxito” at Oxnard College. This is a five-year grant for $3 million to help students figure out which career path they’d like to take. She works closely with the Career and University Transfer Center to increase student success in their career and educational pathway.

“Ultimately it’s about identifying what strategies we can implement so that students have the support that they need,” Rodriguez said to VIDA Newspaper.

In efforts to break cycles of poverty and lack of education, Rodriguez works to provide a hands-on experience taking students to different university visits giving them a chance to see themselves there.

“With our parents not knowing their rights or what was available to them, with all of their kids, pursuing higher education was really important and we’re proud of that,” she said to VIDA Newspaper.

Rodriguez was raised in Oxnard with two farm working migrant parents from Michoacan, México. She graduated from California Lutheran University with a Masters in Education with a Guidance Counselor Credential and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology.

She grew up working in the fields with her father, selling food at her mother’s bakery and selling flowers at the local farmer’s market. Rodriguez attributes her family’s business for her leadership today.

“When I was growing up, because I had a family business I got very involved with future leaders because that would wiggle me out of working. I would volunteer with youth camps, university visits and other opportunities,” Rodriguez said to VIDA Newspaper.

In efforts to escape working, she began to find fulfillment through serving the community.

This led her to the youth leadership and development organization, Future Leaders of America, a local nonprofit working to inspire young people to pursue higher education and build leadership skills.

“Eventually I ended up working there for ten years and that allowed me to learn about my community and the different issues and the different nonprofits trying to make a difference,” Rodriguez said to VIDA Newspaper.

Through this organization, she discovered other nonprofits in the community so after her work with Future Leaders of America, she continued her service in other ways.

Rodriguez is Vice President of the Oxnard Monday Club, board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, serves on the Oxnard Police Department Chief’s Advisory Committee, the Alzheimer’s Association, LUCHA Inc. as well as “I’m a Kid Who Can.”

She is excited about getting more students involved in the community, especially through Oxnard College.

“Through Proyecto Éxito, I’m really connecting and transforming lives. I think that the work I do is transformational, more than a transaction starting with building up the student’s confidence and network of others that want to do better,” Rodriguez said to VIDA Newspaper.

She mentioned how sometimes fear can hold us back and it’s important to find that courage to step outside of our comfort zone. Coming from all walks of life, students are encouraged to come no matter what stage in life a person is in.

“Any person in Ventura County is a potential student because my youngest student is like 14 or so taking dual enrollment classes while still in high school while my oldest student is 82 because it’s someone who wants to open their own restaurant so they’re doing a culinary program,” she said to VIDA Newspaper

Rodriguez believes we are all students of life and encourages identifying and connecting with mentors.

“You don’t have to do it by yourself and fail on our own, find someone who has walked that path and have them guide you through what you want to do,” she said.

She spends her free time involved in the community, traveling and spending time with her family, hoping to build one of her own someday.