Francisco Rodriguez

Associate in Arts

The son of immigrant farmworkers, Francisco Rodriguez often worked alongside his parents to help support the family while attending high school in Naches. Academics were an afterthought for Rodriguez.

“My educational background while in high school was mediocre at best,” Rodriguez said. “I honestly didn’t try much or have the drive to push myself except for maintaining enough of a GPA to keep playing sports.”

Rodriguez, whose family moved to the Yakima Valley from Cuernavaca, Los Morelos, Mexico when he was two years old, realized that his immigration status would further limit his future options and lost hope of attending college.

“It didn’t really hit me until high school that as an undocumented student I wasn’t going to be able to really go to college or even find a decent job,” he continued.

Rodriguez’s hopes for the future received a boost in 2012 when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was announced in an executive memo. For the first time Rodriguez felt it was possible for him to attend college, find a career and give back to his community.

He quickly enrolled at Yakima Valley College, attracted by the affordability it offered.

“My family was poor and we were immigrants so I could not qualify for financial aid. I also wanted to stay local because I wanted to continue working to support my family and continue with my athletics.”

Finding resources to help him succeed, Rodriguez credits instructors like Heidi Shaw in YVC’s psychology program with helping him prepare to transfer to a four-year institution.

“While at YVC I met some great people and was able to work under Dr. Shaw as her student and advisee. She was immensely helpful in fostering my love for psychology and a catalyst for my academic growth,” stated Rodriguez.

While attending YVC, he also had the opportunity to participate in a research project that Shaw was conducting with chimpanzees and became involved with the American Sign Language club.

After earning his associate degree in 2014, Rodriguez transferred to Eastern Washington University where he earned a bachelor’s degree before enrolling at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Anaheim Campus. He is on track to complete his master’s degree in forensic psychology in the summer of 2022.

In hopes of finding out the most innovative and effective research towards restorative justice, immigration reform and mental health law, Rodriguez also has joined several professional groups such as the California Association of Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, American Psychological Association (student division) and the American Psychology-Law Society.

His ultimate goal has been the same since his time at YVC: to better understand the world and help make it a better place using psychology and law as a way to go about it.

“I would like to end up in a position where I do not feel so overburdened with limitations or worries when it comes to the kind of work I want to do. I like my autonomy and I do not want to feel like I’m stuck doing one thing. I like to have the freedom to do what I like and what interests me, while being able to make a living out of it. Therefore, if I can get there, that would be great!”

He also works to mentor younger students in their college endeavors.

“I believe that the point of education is not only to help yourself, but to help others! What’s the point of being smart if you can’t do anything good with it or as my mother says, ‘Que te saca de ser inteligente si no haces algo bueno con eso?’” he concluded.