Never underestimate the power of a teacher.
Crystal Rodriguez was career-oriented even as a high school student in New York City. She planned to join the military after graduation because, she said, "Back then I couldn’t even picture going to college." However, a teacher convinced her to give college a chance.
Rodriguez took the advice, and several colleges accepted her through the Educational Opportunity Program. She chose Buffalo State because it offered so many academic choices.
After a course opened her eyes to the workings of the legal system, she chose to major in criminal justice. "I knew I could have a career with a law enforcement agency once I graduated," Rodriguez said.
However, once again her teachers stepped in, urging her to make the most of her academic talents. She applied to the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares minority and first-generation college students for doctoral studies.
"Getting into the McNair program changed my life," she said.
McNair scholars conduct research as part of the preparation for graduate school. Her professors helped her conduct a project involving Buffalo’s Hispanic community. "I literally walked Buffalo’s West Side from Buffalo State to Niagara Square approaching people," she said. She networked through everyone she knew—her professors, her sorority, owners of corner grocery stores—to collect data. Then she mastered statistics to analyze the data and draw conclusions.
"My McNair cohort was awesome," she said. "We studied and
sacrificed together. Our mentors pushed us. The program did exactly what it was supposed to do." Today, Rodriguez is completing her doctoral degree at the City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice.