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Waubonsee’s Student Success: Featured Alumnus Serves Aurora Community

woman stands in front ot desk
Zaida Rodriguez is Waubonsee’s Student Success: Featured Alumnus for March 2017.

Zaida Rodriguez is living proof that with a little patience and a committed mindset, continuous learning and connection-building pay off. Because of Rodriguez’s many health care and cultural contributions to the City of Aurora through her community service, Waubonsee Community College is proud to honor her as the Student Success: Featured Alumnus for the month of March. 

As the current Community Relations and Outreach Coordinator at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, Rodriguez has more than a decade of experience serving as the medical center’s representative in the community at large. The role is a perfect fit for Rodriguez, as she partners with health care organizations and volunteers on boards and committees that focus on health related issues and events. A committed community volunteer, Rodriguez is a fixture on boards throughout the area, especially those related to health care and the Hispanic community.

In addition to service related to her professional role, she has more than 43 years of combined experience serving on local boards. Highlights include being elected President of the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Her commitment to serving the Hispanic community is also reflected in her work at Companeros en Salud, the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council and as a member of the founding committee that worked together to create programming for Latina women of the community.

Rodriguez credits her time at Waubonsee for giving her the confidence she needed to become the community volunteer and networker that she is today. She came to Waubonsee as a criminal justice major, selecting the college because she had a friend attending and because it was an affordable option.

Though she was very shy while a student at Aurora Central High School, continuing her education at Waubonsee fostered a new confidence and encouraged her to come out of her shell.

As a first-generation college student, Rodriguez juggled school and work while completing her associate degree.

“At one point, I was even working full time while in school,” she said.

Her choice to go to college may have been a unique path for someone in her family. She not only received her associate degree but also her bachelor’s degree in communications from Aurora University.  

Rodriguez appreciated the small, intimate class sizes at Waubonsee, which she says allowed engagement and fostered a great learning environment. In terms of faculty, she recalls Neil Lippold, a police officer and one of her instructors in the criminal justice program.

“He was so engaging and had great knowledge,” she said. “I remember him being able to connect and really caring about the students. He made the classes very interesting!”

Outside of her career in community outreach, Rodriguez has a strong passion for photography. She completed a certificate in photography with highest honors in 1989.

Rodriguez’s position as a legal secretary after receiving her associate degree had her interpreting at the courthouse, where she formed connections with other community members and eventually worked as part of the pre-opening team for Aurora’s Hollywood Casino. Through this position, she experienced the ins and out of opening a business and created her foundation for her future community outreach work.

These days, Rodriguez never stops serving and volunteering. She created Community Health Talks at Rush-Copley, which provide health education for Hispanic members of the community, and also serves on the planning committee for the Community Health Conference in Aurora.

Her words of advice for students following their dreams and working on their education? “There are always opportunities to keep growing and keep learning. Never stop following your passions!”