First-Generation Student with Dyslexia Overcomes Disability to Graduate This Friday from DMC
Camille Carmen Rodriguez exemplifies conquering challenge that affects over 30 million adults in U.S.
Article by: Rosa Linda Reynoso and Melinda Eddleman
According to The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, the neurologically based learning disability known as dyslexia that’s marked by difficulties with decoding and reading comprehension affects 20 percent of the U.S. population. The center estimates that figure to be one in five Americans who are challenged by the disability.
For Camille Carmen Rodriguez, age 24, who will graduate from Del Mar College this Friday night, having dyslexia hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dream. She’s earning her Associate in Arts degree from the Social Work Program in the Department of Social Sciences.
She’ll take that momentous walk across the stage beginning at 7 p.m. tomorrow night, Dec. 16, at the American Bank Center.
“I decided on the field of social work because I have always wanted to give children a voice—those who don’t feel like they have a voice or are afraid to speak up,” says Rodriguez. “I would like to make a difference in the world, and this is how I want to do it.”
About having dyslexia, she adds, “Before … if someone had asked, I would have said that I didn’t face any challenges, but I’m truly proud of myself and what I have accomplished.”
The May 2016 Flour Bluff High School graduate wanted a career in social work since the eighth grade and enrolled at DMC that fall. However, life events two years later meant stopping her studies two years later, and she spent that time holding down two to three jobs to meet her family responsibilities.
Rodriguez returned to the College in fall 2021, but she still faced the challenges her dyslexia posed as she completed work toward her associate’s degree.
Academically, Rodriguez says that her disability made understanding course materials difficult. If she didn’t understand the subject based on how a professor taught a lesson, she sought tutoring to learn another way that addressed her dyslexia. And, taking classroom exams also was extremely difficult.
As a first-generation, low-income student, Rodriguez says that she automatically faced not knowing anything about “how to do college,” including time management. That’s when she accessed DMC student resources such as the College’s Disability Services Office, which helped make a difference.
Certain subjects––math and reading––were especially hard for Rodriguez. Getting assistance from the College’s Stone Writing Center helped her understand how to properly write research papers and utilizing math tutors provided her with the assistance she needed to comprehend her mathematics courses.
Completing her coursework was like a full-time job, but Rodriguez also worked a full-time job with 10-hour shifts and work-study hours with the College’s TRIO Student Support Services (SSS), along with pre-practicum hours for a social work class to complete her degree.
“Finding time to study and for self-care were some of the hardest challenges because I wanted to give up and sleep, but I studied instead,” says Rodriguez. “Maintaining my family with my 18-hour days was difficult. We also faced food insecurities while I attended school, and we only have one car for our household. Thanks to Del Mar College’s resources, that weight was lifted slightly.”
Rodriguez also credits moral support she received from DMC staff that helped her stay focused, including Nina Fischer, Academic Coordinator with TRIO SSS, and Administrative Assistant Myra Alaniz. She highly recommends any first-time generation college student to look into the College’s TRIO SSS for assistance.
“TRIO SSS staff really helped me advance and learn new information that I can use,” notes Rodriguez. “They not only made me feel included but treated me like an equal in their department, and that’s good work experience to have on my resume.”
When not working, studying, attending class or taking care of family, Rodriguez was also a member of the Social Work Association, a registered student organization with the College’s Student Leadership and Campus Life Office.
As Rodriguez counts down to tomorrow night’s milestone, she adds that her fiancé encouraged her to return to Del Mar College, overcome her challenges and continue the path toward her dream.
She says, “He got me out of my shell and encouraged me to speak up. He is the reason why I was able to finish my degree, and I owe a lot of credit to him!”
What’s next for Rodriguez, who is among the 494 students competing a combined 625 degrees and certificates as the Class of Fall 2022. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree as well as become a fully-licensed social worker.
Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.