Everybody Has a Story: Montserrat Rodriguez

How this Low-Income Santa Ana Student was Accepted into Yale


Photo Courtesy of Montserrat Rodriguez

Montserrat Rodriguez poses in her Yale college t-shirt.

Melanie Sanchez, Staff Writer

As a low-income student of color that lives in a predominantly Hispanic community, Montserrat Rodriguez’s life was filled with hardships and obstacles but that didn’t stop her from chasing her dreams. 

On April 6th, 2021, Rodriguez received her acceptance letter to Yale University. Along with her acceptance, Yale is giving her a full ride plus $5,000 for additional expenses.

“I come from immigrant parents that have sacrificed many of their own dreams so that I can achieve mine,” said Rodriguez. 

Her father never graduated high school and her mother dropped out of Cal State Fullerton, so that she could raise her six siblings and herself. 

Rodriguez’s parents are proud of her and “all our kids regardless of what school they go to,” said Rodriguez’s mom.

Rodriguez has always taken honors classes since they were available to her. Her first Advanced Placement (AP) class, which was Human Geography, was difficult for her. It was a change of pace entering a class that required more work from her. 

“I had always done well in school, and I didn’t really practice taking notes or studying prior to this class,” explained Rodriguez. 

After barely passing her AP Human Geography test with a three, she decided that she wanted to challenge herself more. For her last two years, she took four other AP classes and passed them all with fours or fives. Now, she awaits the scores of her last three AP tests. 

Rodriguez has been in many extracurriculars such as Quiz Bowl, Culinary Club, and multiple school performances. But, where she has dedicated herself the most is choir.

She started her musical journey in church. 

“I loved the idea that if I sang loud enough, angels would rejoice in heaven,” said Rodriguez. 

She developed her love of singing from her father who also sang in the church choir.

Rodriguez says her dad has a “vivacious character.”When she entered fourth grade, she joined her school’s choir. The collaborative environment of choir has made the music more memorable for her and it is why she has kept signing up for the class year after year. 

But extracurriculars were difficult for Rodriguez to participate in because of her parent’s tight schedules. It was a hard battle for her to try out for the school musical or stay till 4 p.m. for clubs. Looking back she believes it was one of the hardest obstacles of her high school years. 

She thanks her choir teacher, Jeanette McMahon, for believing in her throughout her years at Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS). Looking back at her time singing, she said, “the memories I’ve made in choir are ones that I’ll always cherish.”

Rodriguez singing at the 2020 Aspects of Love concert. (Courtesy of Montserrat Rodriguez)

Childhood friend, Erik Estrada described Rodriguez as a determined and outspoken person. Someone who would fight tooth and nail to achieve her goals. Estrada believes that she has made a huge impact on not only him but everyone around her.

 “Since sixth grade language arts class when she would destroy anybody in a debate, I knew that she would go on to achieve great things,” Estrada said.

Rodriguez says that she has had unsupportive peers who viewed her strictly as competition rather than her friend/partner but she ensures that she does it for herself, not for others. 

Rodriguez started her college application process earlier than most students. Spending the first few months of her senior year applying to QuestBridge Scholarships. Questbridge, a national nonprofit, connects the nation’s most exceptional students from low-income backgrounds with leading institutions of higher education. Rodriguez was not matched up with any colleges, which was a hard blow.

“I think it’s important to not only recognize your success but your failure as well. If I went my entire life without experiencing failure, that means I was too afraid to try,” added Rodriguez.

She continues, “Per Aspera ad Astra.” Which means through hardships to the stars. 

With her 4.5 GPA, Rodriguez applied to 14 colleges, and received fee waivers for all of them. She chose a variety of out-of-state colleges, private colleges, UC’s, and Cal States. The process was hard and draining, but after all of her decisions came out, she was accepted by 13 colleges.

Her acceptance list includes: Haverford, UC Berkeley, and Columbia University. After discussion with her friends and family, she decided the best fit for her would be Yale University where she will double major in English and Psychology.

Rodriguez is not entirely sure what she wants to do in the future, but one thing is for sure. 

“I ultimately want to help bridge the gap between higher education and low-income students of color by helping them express their stories. If I’m able to help others succeed, I will feel happy,” concluded Rodriguez.