Brooklyn, NY—It is an article of faith for immigrants to the United States that, should one become successful in the land of opportunity, one should then help others in need.
That is exactly what Brooklyn College accounting major Fanny Rodríguez plans to do. Rodríguez, a Honduran immigrant and Presidential Scholar, was recently awarded a $2,000 scholarship by the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which represents and advocates for Hispanic businesses in New York.
“This scholarship will help me finish my education earlier so that I can start at a full-time job as soon as possible,” she says.
Rodríguez’s road to graduation hasn’t been particularly easy. She came to the country only five years ago, at age 20, with her younger brother, after their mother applied for them at the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She had already enrolled in college in Honduras when she and her brother had to abruptly scrap their plans and leave for New York.
She recalls harboring mixed feelings about the thrill of reuniting with her mother but having to leave behind her grandmother, who had looked after her and her brother in their mother’s absence.
The relocation was made more difficult, she adds, because “I didn’t speak a word of English.” But Rodríguez quickly set about overcoming that problem and registered at a language institute to learn English in the morning while working in the kitchen at a fast-food joint at night. Except for her brother, everybody in her family had to work—her mother as a housekeeper and her stepfather as a commercial painter.
By the time she was accepted to Kingsborough Community College, her English skills had improved significantly, and she was promoted to cashier at work. Joining her college’s Discovery Program helped her improve her writing skills. Five semesters later, thanks in large part to her high GPA, Rodríguez was named to the dean’s list and started taking honors classes. She graduated with an associate degree in business and joined the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. At work, she was promoted to manager.
Rodríguez took the next big step in her life when she enrolled at Brooklyn College in 2008. “I always wanted to study accounting, ever since I was in Honduras,” she says. “It was my calling because I’m very detail oriented.”
Obtaining the Presidential Scholarship gave her much more flexibility. “It allowed me to quit one of my two jobs in order to become a full-time student,” says Rodríguez, who had also been working at a 7/11 store. She kept her job at JP Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank, where she still works 20 hours a week as a teller.
“I have to thank the Office of Student Affairs for encouraging me to apply for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s scholarship,” she says.
After writing an essay about why she should be selected for the award, Rodríguez joined four other successful Latino immigrants from different colleges also honored at the Chamber’s banquet.
“I want to help people when I graduate,” she says. “I only have three more semesters to go, and with the money I still have from the Presidential Scholarship and the money I got from the Hispanic Chamber, I should be able to take classes in the summer and finish sooner. Then I want to offer accounting services to low-income people who cannot afford them, especially immigrants of all backgrounds.”