Though Nicole Rodriguez-Lamas '15 is far from her home in San Jose, Costa Rica, she doesn't miss her two sisters. But not because the three aren't close.
Rodriguez-Lamas came to UT the fall after her older sister, Cassandra '11, graduated from the University. (Cassandra is now an MBA student at UT.) Her younger sister, Bianca '17, soon followed in their footsteps. Incidentally, their mother, Shaunaley (Bell) Rodriguez-Lamas '86, also attended UT.
"Even though we all live in different dorms, we see each other often," says Rodriguez-Lamas. "Sometimes we grab lunch together or go out on the weekends."
Rodriguez-Lamas is an elementary education major with a particular love for kindergarten through second grade. She explains how she has always wanted to be a teacher, even though the profession is neither well-paid nor well-respected in Costa Rica.
Diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia in middle school, she says her mother sought out special education to help her succeed. Rodriguez-Lamas says she hopes to one day provide the same kind of help to other students struggling with learning disabilities.
She keeps herself busy at UT. She works for the information technology department as a computer lab supervisor. She currently oversees her younger sister, who is a lab assistant. (Their older sister also worked as a lab assistant as an undergraduate.)
For the last two years, she has served as a Gateways mentor, a demanding position that requires office hours, attending the Gateways class and meetings.
She was recently elected historian for the UT chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, an international education honors society. Off-campus, she tutors five children, ranging in age from 4 to 10, in Spanish.
As she rattles off this impressive list of co-curricular activities, fellow students walk by. Every few minutes she waves to someone, a big grin on her face, at home in her surroundings.
"I love being here on campus. There is always something going on," she says. Rodriguez-Lamas remembers visiting her older sister twice, leaving her with a familiarity that just felt right. "My parents always told us to go anywhere we wanted, and they'd find a way to pay for it."
As part of her financial aid package, Rodriguez-Lamas receives the Latinos Unidos Scholarship, an endowed scholarship established by the City of Tampa Mayor's Hispanic Advisory Council. Rodriguez-Lamas is grateful for the scholarship funds and each year attends the Latinos Unidos Scholarship Luncheon to thank the donors who made this scholarship possible.
She said she was fortunate she came to UT knowing what she wanted to major in, as the education major is extremely demanding.
"Once you start the program, there is no room for other classes," she says. She had to drop her business administration minor to accommodate the demanding schedule.
She cites Edward Cloutier, associate professor of education, as a particularly inspiring professor.
"His was my first education class," she says. "It's the way he presents the material. He has such a love for education. He inspires you to want to be the best teacher you can be."
When she graduates next spring, Rodriguez-Lamas plans to stay in the U.S. (she is a U.S. citizen through her mother) and teach in the Hillsborough County School district. She wants to work for a couple of years and then perhaps pursue a master's degree — maybe one day open that center for children with learning disabilities.
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