Crystal Rodriguez

A proud Puerto Rican-Dominican-American student, shares her journey of personal growth and determination 


Crystal Rodriguez

Crystal Rodriguez, a proud Puerto Rican-Dominican-American student, shares her journey of personal growth and determination. 

Please share a little about your background — what’s your story?  
I am a proud Puerto Rican-Dominican-American, deeply connected to my roots and the diverse tapestry of my family and friends. Growing up in East New York, Brooklyn, and spending cherished summers in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, has shaped who I am today. Despite the challenges posed by the environment in my neighborhood in Cypress Hills, including drugs, pollution, and violence, I have used these experiences to fuel my personal growth and ensure that my neighborhood does not define me. Instead, it has given me strength, resilience, and a unique perspective that I can share with others who face similar circumstances. While my path to becoming a nurse has been an unexpected roller coaster ride, I have embraced the journey and am committed to making a positive impact in the lives of others.

What is your passion or purpose behind your studies at CCNY?
Initially, CCNY was my backup plan in my pursuit of a nursing career—a decision I made after facing multiple transfer attempts and consecutive rejections from nursing schools. I chose to study psychology at CCNY to enhance my understanding of human behavior and delve deeper into the reasons behind our actions and reactions, knowing it would greatly benefit me as a future nurse. During this journey, my passion grew deeper than I could have possibly imagined, uncovering extraordinary leadership skills that I never realized I possessed. My vision and purpose behind my studies are to take these leadership skills beyond the scope of practices, and be of service to my colleagues and peers, and help others believe that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to. By understanding the complexities of our reactions in various circumstances and connecting with myself on a deeper level, I have gained invaluable tools for fostering profound interpersonal and intrapersonal connections during my studies and beyond, as I embark on my nursing career.

Where are you in your career? How has the Colin Powell School helped you along the way?
In 2014, I graduated with my Associates of Occupational Studies in Medical Assisting, and directly out of school, I landed my first career job, where I am still happily employed. I started as a Medical Assistant and nine years later, I am the Executive Assistant of the practice. In this position, leadership has played a vital role, and the Colin Powell School has been instrumental in my growth. Through their support and guidance, I have been able to develop and practice emotional intelligence, which has not only enhanced my ability to advocate and communicate effectively for those around me and my future patients, but has also been personally transformative.

What are your post-graduation plans? 
Post-graduation, I will finally begin a chapter that I have sacrificed so much for: Columbia University School of Nursing, here I come! In June 2023, I will embark on my accelerated Master of Science program, and by August 2024, I aim to conquer the NCLEX and earn my license as a Registered Nurse. But this is just the beginning of my aspirations. Looking ahead, I plan to pursue my Doctor of Nurse Practicing when the timing is right, further expanding my knowledge and expertise in the field. With a solid foundation established, I am excited to delve into a new hobby that has captured my interest for quite some time — gardening. It promises to be a fulfilling and rewarding experience alongside my nursing career.

Please share a significant memory and/or accomplishment from your time at CCNY. 
When reflecting on my journey, there are three accomplishments that hold a special place in my heart. The first two revolve around my roles as a Peer Mentor during my time at CCNY. In the Psychology of Student Success in higher education course, I had the privilege of working alongside Professor Mabel Gomez, a dedicated SEEK counselor, and my classmates. Together, we explored experiential learning and the concept of success. It was during this time that I realized the significance of small victories, like making my bed in the morning, which became a daily source of motivation to tackle other tasks and goals. This taught me the power of planting a seed within myself to foster personal growth.

The second accomplishment was being accepted into the Student Success Guide Program at the Colin Powell School, where I had the pleasure of working with Cynthia Guittierez. As a student success guide, I had the opportunity to connect with bright incoming students from diverse backgrounds, including high school graduates and transfer students. Guiding them through the intimidating transition to a new school allowed me to offer the support and guidance I wished I had received when I was in their shoes. It was a fulfilling experience to create a welcoming environment for them as they embarked on their journey at our rewarding university.

Lastly, I want to express my deep appreciation for my speech professor, Jonny Maldonado. His classroom provided a safe space for vulnerability, and he dedicated his time to educate us on the importance of effective communication. The lessons I learned about delivery and connection will undoubtedly take me to places I cannot yet imagine. The common thread that unites these experiences with my professors and mentors is the transformative power they had, not only on myself but also on my peers and colleagues. Initially guarded, we gradually created safe spaces for one another, allowing personal growth and discovery. I am forever grateful for the investment of energy and guidance I received at CCNY, which has shaped me into the person I am today.

Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?
Always remember to be kind to yourself, especially during moments of failure. It may seem like a dead end, but it is merely a chapter in your unique story. I have faced numerous challenges and encountered countless moments where I felt like giving up. I have dropped to my knees, tears streaming down my face, more times than I can count. Yet, throughout it all, I refused to let my failures define me. Instead, I used them as fuel to propel myself forward. When I didn't want to continue, I found the strength to push through and pursued alternative paths until I achieved success.

I transformed my failures and rejections into sources of resilience and perseverance. I learned the importance of seeking help when needed, asking questions without hesitation, and expecting answers. Embracing constructive criticism became a vital part of my growth. I became an advocate for myself, standing up for what I believed in. And through it all, I cultivated humility, recognizing that we are all on a continuous journey of learning and improvement.

How would you describe CPS in three words?
Compellingly life changing.

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