Samantha Rodriguez is about to experience a few “firsts.”
Tuesday will mark the first time she’ll ride in an airplane. It will also be the first time she travels out of Idaho. And this spring, she will be the first of her family to graduate high school.
Rodriguez, a senior at Melba High School, was asked by the Idaho Community Action Network to present a speech to Congress in Washington, D.C. on immigration reform and the Dream Act. Rodriguez chose to study a government law for her senior project at MHS and gave a speech at the Hispanic Cultural Center in Nampa during the Immigration Reform Bus Tour. ICAN felt the passion in her speech, she said, and asked her to present the same speech to Congress.
“ICAN selected me to go to D.C. and make my story known,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully it will help the immigration reform pass as well as the DREAM Act. Hopefully it will inspire congressmen to get it passed.”
She said her interest in immigration started in the fifth grade when her mother was receiving help from a lawyer to become a U.S. citizen.
“It has inspired me because I’ve been so highly involved with the Hispanic community,” she said. “I feel like I have an obligation to help my Hispanic community and give back, and help them get the freedom they deserve in America.”
The DREAM Act would allow undocumented students the opportunity to be eligible for a 6-year conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service.
“Most of my family and friends are dreamers,” she said. “I am their voice to speaking their freedom and their right to study in college and help (contribute to) the economy.”
Rodriguez will study at Northwest Nazarene University for two years, she said, before transferring to the University of Idaho and eventually Concordia University to study law. She wants to be an immigration lawyer.
She has a cumulative GPA of about 3.5, is on the track and field team and a leader in her multiple student government organizations at Melba High.
Rodriguez said her roles as a leader at her school and the opportunity to present in front of Congress would not have been possible without the help of Melba High teacher Tim Helgerson.
What is your favorite high school memory?
“My favorite high school memory was my freshman year during battle of the sexes and one of the competitions I lost and got pied in the face by a high school senior.”
What has been your biggest challenge?
“The biggest challenge was getting through my car accident two years ago, Sept. 10, 2011, because I almost lost my life in that situation and thank God I am still here today.”
If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
“To have a big house and a big ranch in Melba, to have tons of money and give it to my family and own a private jet.”
If you could give a piece of advice to someone your age, what would it be?
“Never give up on your dream, you dreamed it for a reason.”