I didn’t know Rudy Rodriguez until I sat down to interview him last week. I didn’t know him, and I brought no biases with me as I made the trek to Dublin High School where I first met the young man in the high school library. By the time I left DHS, however, I understood exactly why it is that Rudy’s teachers and coaches alike sing his praises. He’s just that kind of kid.
Rudy Rodriguez is eighteen years old, polite, good looking, and very well-spoken and yet, when I asked him to tell me why he thought he had been chosen to speak with me, he couldn’t tell me.
“There has to be a reason why your teacher and principal chose you for me to meet,” I told the young man.
“I’m a yes ma’am no ma’am kind of student, a little shy, but always smiling…” Rudy drifted off as he tried to answer my question.
I pushed a little more and learned that the high school senior is a sports kind of guy, playing football, running track, and competing in power lifting.
In fact, Rudy actually qualified for state this year in the 181 power lifting class…so now I had a good kid, a yes man, a smiler, and a state qualifier…but still I knew that there was more to this thing than Rudy was telling me. So, I began to dig, going all the way back, almost as far back as Rudy can remember, and I finally found it!
Shortly before the twin towers fell in September of 2001, Rudy Rodriguez started Kindergarten in Dublin, Texas. He well remembers that his teacher let his class watch as the towers burned and fell. Rudy watched, but he didn’t listen because Rudy Rodriguez did not speak English…not very much anyway.
And yet, this year at Dublin High School the very, very articulate Rudy was asked to help out in the junior high ESL classroom, where he tutored the younger students who needed a bit of help.
“I never thought I would see myself teaching!” the outgoing young man laughed.
Even today, Rudy’s dad speaks only a little English; however, his mom does speak the language very well, according to her son.
“I learned to speak English so well in ESL class. That’s when we started speaking more English at home. My mom started speaking to us in English so that helped us learn also.
“It was in the 5th grade when I got more involved in school. Believe it or not, it was because of a dodge ball tournament. That’s when I just burst out of my shell. It was all of the 5th grade classes competing, and our class became the champion. I guess that was when I made more friends and that gave me more confidence. I was still a little slurry in my speaking then, but I was getting better!”
Rudy’s grandparents are first generation to this country, and today their grandson ranks 14th out of a class of 72, and Rudy has dreams…big dreams it seems to me.
The first in his family to go to college, Rudy said, “I plan to start school at Tarleton in the fall, and I am going to major in mechanical engineering technology.”
Of course, I had to cut him off here to ask what in the world one does with a degree in mechanical engineering technology!
“Some people with this major want to design machinery, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to be a tester, so to speak, and I want it to be with vehicles. I’ve always had a fascination with cars, and seeing how they work.
“I’m a curious student. I like seeing how things work. When I see something, my thoughts wonder what it is that makes it work.”
Of course, when I heard this I knew that this had to be someone who had sat in Jennifer Miller’s classroom, and I was right!
“Mrs. Miller had a link to NASA. She wanted to contribute something from us to them, and she had us draw these illustrations (I drew a sun with a solar flair.), and she sent them to NASA. It was the STEAM program that got my attention and helped me decide what I want to do.”
(Click here to go back and read about Jennifer Miller and the STEAM program.)
As Rudy continued to tell me about his life, I realized that while he might be a small town kid, he has big dreams and high hopes for himself.
“Coach Cervetto [Bob Cervetto, DHS athletic director] has been a really big influence in my life. I wasn’t really ‘out there’ before he got here. I was just going through the motions of being in athletics. When he got here, suddenly I WANTED to be a part of his program.
“He’s always talking about integrity and doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. That made a big impression on me.”
Don’t get me wrong. Rudy’s path hasn’t always been totally straight but then, have any of ours been completely straight? Last year, Rudy was tagged for underage drinking, something that snares so many kiddos.
“I saw the disappointment in Coach Cervetto’s eyes when he told me how everyone looks up to me, how little kids and the kids in junior high look up to me, and then he talked about how they would see me now. I never really saw myself as someone that people look up to, and that really helped me get my act together.”
A couple of days later I was standing in a cold Texas rain as only a true track fan will do when I happened to run into Bob Cervetto. Obviously, it was a great chance for me to ask the coach about Rudy. To say that he sings the young man’s praises would be putting it mildly. In fact, Rudy’s chest would swell with pride to know just how highly Dublin’s athletic director thinks of him.
And then, as I usually do, I asked Rudy Rodriguez to leave me with some words of wisdom for others. His grin firmly in place, the almost high school graduate said, “A smile can go a long, long way…”
I agree, Rudy.
What others had to say about Rudy
Coach Greg Hardcastle:
“Rudy is a very hard worker both in and out of the classroom. I had him in my algebra 1 class last year, and he was an excellent student for me. He’s a hard worker who sets his goals, works for it, and never slacks. He set his goal to make it to state in power lifting this year, and he did, finishing in the top 10. With Rudy, we know that we’re going to get his best effort every single day.”
Teacher Jennifer Horner Miller:
“Rudy is a creative thinker, contributor, and leader to many. Rudy was instrumental in helping Dublin ISD’s effort to unite community and stakeholders. Rudy and his team built a Rodeo Heritage Museum website, created NASA MMS educational outreach productions, and most importantly, he led a team two years ago to reconsider how they, DHS students, could change their community. I am very proud to see a young Hispanic role model step up and reach out to recognize his full potential. Rudy will go far in life, and I can’t wait to hear about his accomplishments.”