UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Roberto Rodriguez decided to start working toward his college degree while he was in the military, he never dreamed he’d attend a university like Penn State.
On the other hand, Stephanie Reynolds started college after high school but didn’t finish. And she never imagined she’d be able to finish her degree while still working and balancing all the needs of her busy family.
Rodriguez and Reynolds both turned to Penn State World Campus to help make their dreams come true, and they will share their experiences at the Penn State World Campus Graduation Celebration on Friday, May 4, an event for graduating students and their families at the Bryce Jordan Center. They will graduate Saturday during the University’s spring commencement.
“Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I never thought I’d have this opportunity,” said Rodriguez, 39, who will receive an associate’s degree in letters, arts and sciences. “I know I have changed as a person because of my time at Penn State.”
Rodriguez, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps who lives in Stafford, Virginia, will continue with World Campus to work toward his bachelor’s degree, majoring in digital journalism and media.
“I want to go a school that I’m truly going to be proud of,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez began taking courses in 2012, and for four years, he was the personal communicator for the commander of the U.S. Central Command, a Department of Defense command that oversees forces in the Middle East, northern Africa and central Asia. Rodriguez was responsible for facilitating the technology to make sure the four-star general could communicate with senior national and world leaders.
“It was pretty intense,” Rodriguez said. “I had to squeeze a lot of schoolwork in small time frames.”
Rodriguez plans to retire from the military in 2020, around the time he expects to complete his bachelor’s degree. He said he has a passion for communication and would like to work in radio.
Reynolds, 40, of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. She enrolled in 2014 after meeting a Penn State faculty member at a conference she attended through her work at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
At the time, Reynolds couldn’t imagine working full time, going to college full time and raising her four children. But when she found out she could go to Penn State online, she was determined to finish her degree.
Reynolds has gone on to serve on the Penn State World Campus student advisory board and spoke at the University’s annual State of State event in February. She has been an advocate for World Campus students to have more of a voice in student government.
The experience has given her confidence.
“I would say that even five years ago I wouldn’t be talking in front of people like I am,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it if weren’t for World Campus.”
Visit the Penn State World Campus website to learn more about learning online.