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Dezirae Rodriguez: Bouncing Back

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Senior Dezirae Rodriguez walks the field with her family on Senior Night.

Jose Cruz, Legacy High School

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Face in hands, knees on carpet, Dezirae Rodriguez harks to the phone as she waits for a voice to emerge at the end of a dial tone. Desperation came in waves, exhaustion lingered while the situation continued to crumble like the foundations of a house she would soon be forced to part with.

She lost her home.

“The first thing that I packed was pictures because they had so much value to me,” the now-senior Rodriguez said. “I spent the entire day, I didn’t eat or anything, just packing.”

With each passing second, her past piled away within the edges of boxes and crates — tearing a valley right through her appetite for life. Assistance was offered but immediately refused when her mother suggested her siblings could help with the burial of a houseful of memories.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want my brothers’ last memory of this house to be them choosing what toys to sell and what toys to keep,’” Rodriguez said, “so I didn’t let them pack.”

Instead, she sat down, tired, on her knees crying as she listened to a song — ready for a green light to send her beyond that mournful moment.

Eventually, that light came.

“Me and my mom became like a team,” Rodriguez said. “We kinda help each other. We really do everything together.”

A year after she lost her home in 2016, Rodriguez and her mother were presented with an opportunity the shell-shocked teenager could not afford to pass up. A financial assistance class offered by their church piqued the interest of Rodriguez. With persistence, she broke through her mother’s reluctance, and the two learned valuable money skills designed to prevent the exact situation they wrestled through the previous year.

“It really taught me how to save — ever since then I have been on top of it,” Rodriguez said. “I am determined to never go back to that place. I never want to pack my house again.”

That drive, that palpable persistence devoted to self-improvement and growth, according to Rodriguez, provided the catalyst for an upward-trajectory in her life. She has learned to grasp and cherish the relationships that helped her carry on through the terrible stretches of existence.

“All of us came out of it as better people and it really changes how you look at life,” Rodriguez said. “I am so grateful for all the life lessons I learned.”

Losing her house drained — drained the joy out of everything.

Bouncing back empowered — empowered Rodriguez to purchase her own car.

Empowered her to have her first year of college paid off.

Empowered her to become a woman who feels more responsible and knowledgeable than she could have imagined.

She feels empowered. She feels blessed.

“We may not have much, but we have each other and that’s all that matters,” Rodriguez said. “That is all that matters.”

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