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College student gives back to program that changed his life

Students Rising Above: Rodrigo Urbina
Students Rising Above: Rodrigo Urbina 04:31

A onetime pupil has now become a student advisor, giving back after years of mentorship led him to success. 

Rodrigo Urbina one of those advisors who was a SRA scholar himself, and knows firsthand the challenges that come up during college. He credits his SRA advisor for guiding him through one of the toughest periods of his life. Now Rodrigo hopes to do that for other students.

Rodrigo checks is with his 43 students every day. He says he offers more emotional support, because he says, "you could be prepared academically, but there is a lot more to college than passing your classes."

Rodrigo knows firsthand what it's like to struggle in college and a new environment. When he was a freshman, he seemed to have his life all figured out. He was given a full ride to Princeton University as a first-generation college student, pursuing a career in medical research. It was the ultimate success story. 

But on the inside, he was drowning, still haunted by the moment his life changed forever. When he was in 6th grade, his parents were deported to Mexico, with him being brought along. He left the only home he ever knew; he also barely spoke Spanish.

His parents realized Rodrigo's best chance to achieve the life they wanted for their son was to send him back to the states to live with his sister. He says he "filled his days with as much as he could just to give myself the best chance to go to college to a four year, achieve this dream. I wanted to go to college, but you know I just never processed what kind of sacrifice that meant for myself and for my family."

After his junior year in college, Rodrigo took a break and came home to California, not knowing if he'd ever return to Princeton. During that time of uncertainty, one person remained constant. His SRA advisor. He says "even during my time off, I knew I had SRA support. I knew they were going to help me go back to school and finish school."

That advisor didn't just give Rodrigo hope, they gave him inspiration for a new direction in his life. Now he defines success is not just having a career, but finding a calling.

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