Professor of Common Ground

Paying it Forward

First Generation student Azanet Rodriguez makes sure that her daughters know education is something to fight for — and a path for helping others.
By Amy Dressel-Martin, Photography by Woody Myers

Azanet Rodriquez

When Azanet Rodriquez was 2 years old, she fell from a rooftop onto a cement floor in her hometown in Mexico and fractured her skull.

Doctors told her parents that she would suffer from seizures and mental disabilities for the rest of her life.

But, as Azanet says, even at 2, the diagnosis challenged her to go “against all odds.

“In fifth grade, I had a teacher who made fun of me in front of the class because I couldn’t learn my multiplication table,” Azanet said. “I was terrified to attend his class and be humiliated.”

Today, Azanet has come a long way from the fear of being embarrassed in class. She’s the first in her family to graduate from high school and from community college, and to transfer to a university.

“My father always told me that if I ever missed work because of school, I would have to quit. So I worked to help provide for the family while attending school to show him that education was critical to finding better job opportunities.”

She is also an advocate for the elderly and for people with disabilities. Although she has young children at home, for the past nine years she has volunteered her time organizing activities and outings at a Greeley senior center, singing at a local nursing home and traveling to Mexico to provide medical services to people in need.

Azanet is showing her daughters how to be “luchadoras” or fighters by pursuing her degree in Human Services and also giving back to the community. This fall she performed at the César Chávez Cultural Center 30th Anniversary Celebration and at the Community Engaged Scholars Symposium.

“My contribution to society will advance as I continue to achieve my educational goals,” Azanet said. “Everything I do revolves around helping others.”

The Bob & Bonnie Phelps Family CAP Awards

The Bob & Bonnie Phelps Family CAP Awards recognize three students annually who:

Contribute…by volunteering time and personal skills, talents, abilities, experience and passion around issues in service to the community.

Achieve…by displaying a bias toward action and performance, overcoming obstacles and setbacks, and accomplishing goals.

Pay-it-forward…by impacting the lives of others in meaningful and positive ways through random and planned acts of kindness, caring
and “giving back.”

2015 CAP Award scholars:

Azanet Rodriquez, future community health leader

Amber Lemmon, future business leader, specializing in Finance and Accounting

Cayden Olsen, future teacher, specializing in Social Science Secondary Teaching, Special Education, Art and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse education