Associate of Arts - Fine Arts, Glendale Community College
Bachelor of Science in Applied Management, Grand Canyon University
Baja California, Mexico
“ I want to use all the tools and knowledge I acquire at Midwestern and use them to help local communities that are usually overlooked due to their socioeconomic status or racial background. ”Nicolas Rivera Rodriguez
Occupational Therapy Student, Class of 2023
What inspired you to pursue a healthcare career?
I never intended to pursue a career in the healthcare field. However, my journey began when I became friends with a young girl named Yukari. Yukari and I became close after the passing of Karen, a mutual friend of ours in middle school. The day after Karen's passing, I noticed Yukari crying in the gymnasium. I cautiously approached her and asked if everything was okay. She replied, "Kids keep making fun of me, and I miss Karen so much. She would have lunch with me every day, and now I have no one to sit with." Without hesitation, I said, "Don't worry, I'll have lunch with you every day." She jumped toward me and gave me the biggest hug ever. Since then, I've wanted to make a difference and help others.
How did your background and history factor into your career choice?
Growing up, I was undocumented, meaning I was in the USA illegally. I stayed undocumented most of my life. As a result, I did not grow up with many accessible career choices, but I've always found a sense of joy and fulfillment in helping others. I knew I wanted to help kids with special needs and be their support system; I wanted to be an extension of their inner strength. My time of being undocumented was running out as I approached my high school graduation. In the eyes of the law, as soon as I turned 18, I was willingly illegally in America. I officially became a documented citizen of the USA when I turned 18.
I'm currently the first member of my entire family to pursue and attend graduate school. Of course, with this milestone comes a lot of pressure, admiration, and expectation. My family sees me as pursuing the "American Dream," which is the sole reason my parents brought us to America for a better and brighter future.
Why did you decide to attend Midwestern University?
I initially learned about Midwestern during a meeting with my high school counselor to discuss future goals. She asked what I wanted to do once I was done with high school and I said, “I want to work and help kids with special needs become the best version of themselves regardless of their cultural background or diagnosis.” She replied, “That’s what an Occupational Therapist does, and Midwestern University in Arizona is an amazing school!”
What about a Midwestern University education do you want to carry forward in your career?
I want to use all the tools and knowledge I acquire at Midwestern and use them to help local communities that are usually overlooked due to their socioeconomic status or racial background.
Why is it important for Midwestern University to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
Inclusivity and diversity - our culture is something we should be proud of, not something that should bring us shame. By celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, the school honors the students' history, culture, and influence of past generations from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Without our heritage and ancestors, we wouldn't be where we are today. Our ancestors have paved the way, whether it was or wasn't intentional.
What do you wish others knew about your culture?
I wish others knew that minorities are so much more than their associated stereotypes. My culture values family so much. We bring each other happiness and joy, and I know that they support me with everything I do.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Without judgment, never be afraid to ask someone about their cultural background. We all have walked different paths in life that we know nothing about unless we take the time to ask and learn from those that are "different" from us.
Nicolas Rivera Rodriguez is a Class of 2023 student in the Occupational Therapy Program at the College of Health Sciences in Glendale.