A Youth Spent Bridging Cultural Gaps Inspired Latina's Volunteer Spirit



Photo courtesy of Adriana Rodrigues
 By Nicole Mason

Adriana Rodriguez was the first member of her family to be  born in the United States. Not only that, she said she was the first woman from her family’s home town of Lagunillas Michoacam, Mexico to be born in the United States as well. Little did her family know, the merging of her American and Mexican roots would help her in bringing others together. 
Growing up in a working class family, Rodriguez went through the Wallingford school system and attended Lyman Hall High School. When she was 13 years old she went to the Spanish Community of Wallingford (SCOW) with her father, who was receiving services at the time. Through the trip to SCOW, she was drawn to become more involved in giving back to the community. 
Shortly afterward, Rodriguez brought along her 3-year-old brother and began volunteering at a summer program where, each day, she worked with children by doing activities like arts and crafts and playing games. From that summer on she continued to volunteer throughout the community, including volunteering at SCOW, Wallingford schools, the Fire Department, and teaching Catechism to bilingual children at Most Holy Trinity Church.
While she began teaching as an assistant, Rodriguez taught her own kindergarten class by the time she was 14 years old. At the church she was president of her youth group, and also participating in the church Leaderes group.
Following her love of giving back, she continued volunteering as much as she could throughout high school. In 2003 and 2004, she was awarded volunteer of the year by the United Way of Wallingford and Meriden. In 2006, Adriana was offered a job at SCOW as an administrative clerk and worked her way up to the role of Program Coordinator.
How has your connection to the Latino community inspired you to become involved?
Growing up I knew I was different. I spoke two languages and was living in two cultures. I spoke Spanish and English and was living the American culture and at the same time the Mexican culture. It wasn’t until middle school that I embraced them.  I used my Spanish to translate and interpret. In school I would help interpret for students who came from Mexico and other countries in South America. We would right away have the cultural connection as well. We celebrated the same traditions and could relate to many things.  It was then that I wanted to give back and help other people. I wanted to use my ability to speak two languages and use it in positive ways. 
Since then, I have been very involved throughout the community. I work at Parker Farms Elementary School in the ELL department and I am the Youth and Children Program Coordinator at the Spanish Community of  Wallingford.  In my free time, I still like to do as much as I can to help others. This past January, I flew to Les Cayes, Haiti with a group from HELO Haiti and spent New Years with many wonderful children who live in orphanages. 
What is your role in the Spanish Community of Wallingford?
I am now the program coordinator for the Youth Leadership Program, ¡Adelante! America. I have the opportunity to work with young individuals and help them get the resources and information to further their education after high school. Adelante is a great program where they perform many community service projects throughout Connecticut, listen to guest speakers, embrace their culture, visits colleges, and be part of a group. Last month, the students ran a wonderful leadership event called Junk Couture Fashion Show.  They used recycled items to create their outfits. The students had an  amazing time planning the event while learning many skills. 
What advice do you have for young Latinos?
My advice to the young Latinos is always follow your dreams and goals. Always try your very best, and have a positive attitude with everything you do.  Nothing is impossible, therefore, everything is possible. Always be proud of where you came from.