Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography
Growing up, Leo Jimenez-Rodriguez loved going to visit family in Mexico, especially to his grandparents’ small farm.
“It was always a fun time when I had the chance to go to Mexico and milk cows and help my grandpa harvest,” Jimenez-Rodriguez said.
And while getting a degree in agricultural business had its practical aspects because, as he said, “We will always need to feed our population,” it was that experience on the farm that was the real inspiration.
“I want to help expand our operation, and I knew CSU would be the best way to do so,” Jimenez-Rodriguez said.
According to nominator and advisor Aubriel Zachman, family has long been a driving force for the first-generation college student – whether that was supporting his parents and siblings in Denver or his fraternity brothers at Gamma Zeta Alpha, a chapter devoted to Latino culture that he helped bring to campus.
“Leo Jimenez-Rodriguez is truly an amazing person,” she said. “He financially helps and supports his family and works so hard. He’s heavily involved with his fraternity, but the rest of his time is dedicated to helping and supporting his parents and siblings. Throughout college his family has had mishaps, medical issues and struggles, but he’s continued to stay in school and has a great attitude.”
In their own words
Q. What experiences in your life, or at CSU, have required you to demonstrate courage?
Growing up in a Latino household of immigrant parents there were always major challenges and things deemed impossible. I feel in many other cultures it is expected that you continue your education through college. For many like me, college is only a dream. Going to college was a scary thought; no one in my family has ever done it and there was major pressure to succeed and become the new standard for future generations. Courage is the ability to do something that scares one. I have built the courage to take on this endeavor of going to college since I was a little kid in grade school. I started my journey with a major language barrier, only speaking Spanish. I pushed myself to learn in a completely new language. Even with this barrier, I have not let fear of failing get in my way because I want my siblings and my future family to use me as an example of courage and pursue their dreams no matter how difficult or scary they may be. Courage has been a big factor in my success here at CSU.
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
We all come to school with the goal of graduating and getting a job that will lead us to a better future. But even on the verge of accomplishing this, I don’t believe that the diploma is the most rewarding part. At CSU I have met some of the most genuine people that I have in my life today. I have made numerous friends with students, professors and even business leaders. I had the blessing to open a new chapter for Gamma Zeta Alpha Fraternity Inc. where I – along with 10 others – built a chapter dedicated to the development of young Latino men in college. I have built a plethora of networks through CSU. I got to meet many business owners and leaders who continue to teach me every day. I had a big support system thanks to my friends and my amazing advisor, Aubriel Zachman, who made this all possible. These are people that I will hold tight in my life.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
My advice for any incoming student is simply do not give up. Many times, in college we face obstacles that make it easier for one to want to quit. I remember my first college exam, I received a 40% in biology. It was the first time I’d ever failed an exam. I felt devastated and questioned whether college was a good idea. It took a major toll on me, but here I am now graduating. I also had to commute two-plus hours daily my second year due to financial adversity my family and I were facing.
“I knew this was for the betterment of myself and my family, so I kept pushing and am now graduating. Nothing is ever impossible if you have enough will and desire.”
It was a drag having to do this, but I knew this was for the betterment of myself and my family, so I kept pushing and am now graduating. Nothing is ever impossible if you have enough will and desire.
Q. What are your plans for after graduation?
My plans now are to join a real estate group. I am currently working towards my license to be a broker associate with the goal being to open my own brokerage for commercial land and buildings. I will never forget about the reason I came here though, which was to build my family’s farm in Mexico and help provide for my family out there. There is no ceiling too high to reach with the will and power to succeed.