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EPISD Student Spotlight: Isabel Rodriguez, Burges High


(BURGES HIGH SCHOOL –– Jan. 31, 2022) – Burges Early College senior Isabel Rodriguez is Notre Dame bound in the fall on a full-ride scholarship as the fourth QuestBridge Scholar in EPISD this school year. The mustang’s softball pitcher and team captain just graduated with an associate’s degree from El Paso Community college and looks forward to doing research while in Fort Bend, Ind. Community Engagement sat down with her for a virtual interview for this edition of the EPISD Student Spotlight.

EPISD: What are your career goals and how will QuestBridge help you achieve them?

Isabel Rodriguez: I'm not 100 percent sure whether I want to pursue a career as a neuroscientist or a neurologist. The difference being one is research-focused and the latter is clinical. Either way, both of my potential career choices are in very competitive fields, and I believe that Notre Dame will help me reach my goals, as large as they may be. The education that I will now be receiving at Notre Dame will be a priceless one that, in the long run, will change the trajectory of my life, because I can now reach for the stars without limitations. 

EPISD: What do you look forward to most at Notre Dame?

IR: I look forward to having the college experience I always grew up wanting. Meaning navigating an entirely new place on my own, meeting new people, taking courses that spark my interest and even getting lost on campus. I also look forward to the new opportunities that Notre Dame will provide me with and the highly competitive environment that will challenge my academic abilities. 

EPISD: Tell us about your passion for research and how Notre Dame was a great match for you?

IR: I've always considered myself a curious person, so research has always been my favorite way to learn new things. Notre Dame is a nationally recognized research institution that has received numerous high-achieving awards. Because of this, Notre Dame offers undergraduate students, like me, the opportunity to participate in all kinds of research on campus and all year long. I also want to take part in research opportunities because I feel that research will enhance my experience as a neuroscience major. 

EPISD: What other top scholarships are you currently in the running for or have received?

IR: Although I've applied for multiple scholarships, I wouldn't say that I'm in the running for any that are quite as large as being matched through QuestBridge. Of course, I'm still taking advantage of all the micro-scholarships I found on GoingMerry. 

EPISD: How do you balance being academics with sports?

IR: Balancing academics and sports wasn't always the easiest for me, but I learned to take advantage of any downtime I had to complete any of my assignments. I try to make it a point to take care of any pending assignments before I can allow myself to have fun or enjoy softball. My coach is also very adamant about the correlation between high-achieving students and high-achieving athletes. 

EPISD: How has being a BECHS student prepared you for college and your future?

IR: Through the BECHS program, I learned valuable skills that I will need as a college student, like time management, communication skills, and preparing for the real world. I can also confidently say that I've gotten a feel for what rigorous college classes feel like and what's expected of a college student. BECHS has also given me the opportunity to have an associates degree, which I earned in December, before earning my high school diploma.

EPISD: What are your honors and achievements in high school? 

IR: I'm in the National Honor Society, a QuestBridge scholar, and currently in the top 2 percent of my graduating class. On the athletic side, I earned All-District "Newcomer of the Year" my freshman year and 1st team All-District my junior year.

EPISD: What other extracurricular activities are you involved in? 

IR: I've been a varsity softball player for all four years of high school, and I became a team captain during my junior year. I hold the parliamentarian position for Burges' National Honor Society. I also am the founder and president of Cancer Kids First at Burges, a club where members give to local children who are battling cancer. Our main mission is to relieve children and their families of certain burdens and bring a close-to-normal childhood to every patient. Lastly, I have a part-time job at a grocery store near home.

EPISD: Why has it been important to you to get involved in school?

IR: To be honest, I wasn't very involved at school until the pandemic hit. Before my junior year, I always put things off because I "always had next year." Eventually, I realized that high school is short (sometimes shorter than we planned), and there's no reason for me to not be involved. Now, I make sure to take part in anything I can and take advantage of the time I have here at Burges and make the most of my high school experience. 

EPISD What have you been doing outside of school activities?

IR: Outside of school, I tend to my family responsibilities, so I rarely have time for a whole lot. To make a long story short, COVID hit my family extremely hard, and now it's my turn to take care of the people who took care of me my entire life. Of course, I still have hobbies like embroidery, cross-stitching, and reading books, but for the past year or so, I haven't participated in as many out-of-school activities as I'd like. 

EPISD: What advice would you give students interested in applying for QuestBridge?

IR: Go for it! No matter how "ordinary" you think you are, your story is unique, and that's what all of these Questbridge partners are looking for. I'd also say to just be yourself and stay true to who you are in everything you submit. Lastly, reach out for help! As independent as you may want to be, it's crucial to ask for help when you need it. After all, a full-ride scholarship is in the balance. 

EPISD:  Anything you’d like to add? 

IR: I want to first thank my parents and my brothers for pushing me to be the best student and person I can be. Next, I cannot thank my counselor, Ms. Ramirez enough for her help. To Ms. Priego and Dr. Wilhite, thank you so much for your guidance and encouragement throughout this entire process and even before that. Your great deeds will never go unnoticed! Finally, I want to thank my peers and teachers for their great attitudes and support through the challenges we have all faced in the past two years. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity, and I promise to make El Paso proud.

Interview by Reneé de Santos
Photos by Leonel Monroy