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Mother and Daughter Graduate Together, Despite Life’s Hard Lessons

August 12, 2013

Mother Daughter Grads

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— When Virginia Rodriguez received her master’s degree in Special Education on August 10, from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, her entire family was cheering her on from the stands at the American Bank Center, with the exception of her mother, Judith Rodriguez.  That is because her mother was sitting right next to her waiting to receive her own diploma, a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

"I am so happy to be graduating with my mom," said Virginia. "She is just amazing!"

It takes hard work and dedication for any student to make it to graduation.  But for Judith and Virginia Rodriguez, the path to a diploma was littered with even more obstacles than usual.   

"I grew up with dyslexia, was diagnosed with A.D.D. and have and an auditory learning disorder," said Virginia. "My mother never told me I had a problem.  She knew, with coping mechanisms, I could overcome my problems."

Virginia says, growing up, her parents told her that these disabilities did not control her life, she controlled her life.  It was that advice and living her entire life with her aunt who had Down syndrome, that made her decide to pursue a degree in Special Education.

"She grew up in a family where disability was not unique; it was the norm," said Judith. "It is very much who she is. Every fiber of her has embraced this degree and this life."

Growing up, Judith was one of seven children; and her mother died when she was very young.  She says even though her family was very poor, her father always emphasized the importance of education.  She took a few college courses right after high school, but put her education on hold when she started a family. She decided to go back to school when her two children were grown, but was very anxious about starting over.

"She thought she was going to be the oldest person in the class," said Virginia.  "I walked my mom to her first class on her first day.  It was a total role reversal."

"I knew how she felt when she was little and I walked her to her first class," said Judith. "She was my support system.  It was a very special moment for both of us."

But as Judith pursued her bachelor’s degree and Virginia worked on her master’s, another storm to be weathered was on the horizon for this mother daughter duo.

"My dad, who is a gulf war veteran, started to become very ill; to the point where the doctors said he might not make it," said Virginia. 

Judith says her husband had a lung disease that he contracted while serving our country in Kuwait.  Mother and daughter now took turns going to class and staying at the hospital, so he would never be alone.  

"With the help of the people at the University I was able to continue at school," said Judith. "The University had my back."

Judith says she plans to now pursue a master’s degree in Counseling at the Island University.  Virginia has been hired by Sidney Lanier High School in San Antonio as a special education teacher.


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