Military veterans at San Diego City and San Diego Mesa colleges got an early Veterans Day present with the announcement of $400,000 in new grants to bolster services at their campus Veterans Resource Centers.
February 19, 2016
San Diego Mesa College scholar and Poway resident, Daniel Rodriguez, whose 14 years in the Marines Corps included tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, has been awarded a free postsecondary education at Wesleyan University in Connecticut through the nonprofit Posse Foundation’s Veterans Program.
The Posse Veterans Program identifies and supports military veterans interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees at top colleges and universities. It evolved from the Posse Foundation, which was established in 1989 to identify public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential that can be overlooked by traditional college selection processes and prepares them for admission to the nation’s top universities.
“I’m super excited, this is a great opportunity,” said Rodriguez, 33, who credited Mesa College for his success.
“I had nothing but support at Mesa since the first day I stepped on campus,” he said. “But the most impressive thing for me was the Veterans Center. Everybody welcomed me with open arms, and I’ve been there virtually every day.”
Juan David Ortiz-Romero, president of the Student Veterans Organization at Mesa College, said Rodriguez’s experience at the Veterans Resource Center is typical.
“The Veterans Resource Center here is a place for us to come to relax, decompress, and find support and get mentoring to help you succeed,” he said. “It’s kind of like a clubhouse.”
Rodriguez, a single father of a 9-year-old girl, will be studying film when he enrolls at Wesleyan University this fall with a cohort of nine others in the Posse Veterans Program. His goal is to become a film director.
His journey has included a wealth of challenges.
Born and raised in Union City, N.J., Rodriguez said he turned to drugs as a youth in a fatherless home and barely managed to graduate from high school. “I found myself living in subway stations, sleeping on park benches, going from house to house, just trying to survive,” Rodriguez said. “I was either going to end up in jail or dead.”
His life began to change after signing up for the Marines. His 14 years in the service included three combat tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, two tours on naval ships, along with stops in Korea, Japan and the Philippines.
Rodriguez’s final stop was at Camp Pendleton, where he was assigned to the 1st Intelligence Battalion. When he left the Corps in December of 2014, he scouted colleges in the region and quickly settled on Mesa College.
“I went to several colleges, but when I was at Mesa, it felt more like a college experience,” Rodriguez said. “The Veterans Center, though, is what sold me on the campus.”
Rodriguez enrolled at Mesa College in the spring of 2015 and has a 4.0 GPA since arriving. It was at the Mesa College Veterans Resource Center that Rodriguez heard about the Posse Veterans Program and submitted his application. The program, which is looking for leaders in their places of work, communities, and/or families who demonstrate strong academic potential.
Rodriguez made it to the final round of applicants, attended a group interview, and met representatives from participating colleges. Upon being selected to take part in the program, he spent a one‐month, pre‐collegiate training program in New York during winter break, during which participants focus on leadership development, academic excellence and team building.
Rodriguez is planning to leave for Wesleyan University in June.
Jennifer Nichols Kearns
Director of Communications