Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Amalia Rodas

Amalia Rodas

Name: Amalia Rodas

Hometown: Escondido, California

Role on Campus: Graduate student pursuing an MPA

Years on campus: 7

Did you or do you have plans to continue your education beyond a four-year degree? I did not have plans to continue on to graduate school. I came in as a pre-nursing major without even thinking about how much I dislike taking blood and vaccines. It took me five years to get through my undergrad degree, and that was a huge accomplishment for me since I almost dropped out when I first came to Chico. It took me a while to get used to the different place and people, and to learn how much I love and value education.

Why did you choose Chico? I got accepted to four CSUs—San Marcos, East Bay, San Bernardino, and Chico. My favorite high school teacher, Mr. Lance Keller, came to Chico State, so that was truly a main influence in my decision-making. I remember thinking in high school that I wouldn’t come to college because I didn’t know about financial aid. Chico ended up offering me the most money, and that finalized my decision.

What first sparked your interest in a college education? My parents have always told me that we came to this country so that my siblings and I can have more opportunities than they did. My father loves learning. He used to try to make time to read our high school textbooks sometimes. I think that seeing his passion for education but not having neither the time nor money to attend a university himself, continuously pushed me to do what I could. In a way, it was a feeling that I couldn’t let my parents down because they made so many sacrifices when we were younger. The least I could do was fulfill one of their biggest dreams—I owed that to them.

What were some barriers that prevented others in your family from completing a four-year degree? I think the feeling of not belonging at the university is huge. When you’re in a room with students who are expressing themselves so eloquently, who can put their thoughts into words that people know what they are saying, and who seem to fully understand the material in class and what’s being asked by the professors, I think that the imposter syndrome is very real but that we don’t talk about it much. Asking for help is also a barrier. It took me a long time to go to a professor’s office hours, to sign up for tutoring, and even to find someone I fully trusted and then tell them “this is what I’m going through and I need some guidance.”

Who can you point to as a mentor or inspiration in your pursuit of a four-year degree and why? There are many people at Chico State I see as mentors and inspirations. However, Thia Wolf would definitely deserve credit for a lot of my improvements and successes. I first started working for her my sophomore year. I remember that, among other things, I wouldn’t show up to meetings and I’d be late to work but she didn’t even fire me. She saw potential in me when anyone else might have thought I was just lazy. Honestly, the woman I am today is in great part because of the support she has provided. There’s a difference between the people that tell you you’re capable and people like her; that genuinely make you feel cared for and make you believe you belong here. I plan on paying it forward as much as I can in the future because I don’t know how I got so lucky to have her not ever give up on me.

What does being first-gen mean to you? First-gen to me means I have a purpose. I am here, getting an education in the United States, because of the sacrifices my ancestors made. I was born in Guatemala, where at a point there was genocide of the indigenous peoples. I come from blood that carries a lot of pain and suffering but also plenty of hard work and resilience. My purpose it to be a change agent in my community—not just because it’s important but because it’s needed.

What is your wildest ambition? I want to be involved in the process of changing systemic structures that put some people in a better place and with better resources than others. My wildest ambition is to witness at least some progress in the efforts to achieve equity for underrepresented minorities and marginalized people.

What message do you want to send other first-gen students? Whatever you are struggling with, you’re not alone. It’s hard to ask for help sometimes but it is necessary —not only for your well-being but so that then you can be that help for others. Apply for scholarships!