Azanet Rodriguez found an enriching experience at Aims Community College, empowering her to not only transform her life and become a beacon of inspiration for others.
Azanet Rodriguez is Paying It Forward to Next Generation
Today, Azanet is a guiding force dedicated to helping Aims students navigate their way to success and fulfillment. Her story stands as a powerful illustration of how pursuing your dreams can create a ripple effect, touching the lives of countless others and leaving an enduring, positive impact on the world.
Azanet started at Aims as a first-generation and non-traditional student in 2010 and graduated in 2014. Azanet transferred to the University of Northern Colorado and completed her bachelor’s degree in Human Services in 2016. Azanet’s positive experience at Aims inspired her to begin working on the Greeley Campus in 2017 and landed her position as an academic advisor on the Aims Pathway Advising team in 2018. A Pathway advisor acts as a liaison for inquiries related to guidance, general issues, campus amenities, and assistance in achieving success.
“I feel humbled and honored to give back to a place that invested so much in my personal life and professional career. I want to impact lives and get to do that when I meet with students.”
Educational Journey to Aims and Beyond
Azanet was the first person in her family to finish high school and the first to go to college. This wasn’t a straightforward path. “I was 14 years old when I started school at junior high in Greeley. I repeated ninth grade by choice because I wanted to learn a little more English, and I was afraid to go to Greeley West.”
Her family is from Mexico and had different thoughts about educational attainment. “Because of my culture, my father thought it was good enough for me to have graduated from ninth grade and told me that I needed to quit so I could work and help the family,” she said. She eventually went back to translate for one of her brothers and asked if she could take the classes, too. This led Azanet to graduate from an alternative high school.
She says her husband Efren was an “incredible support in my personal and professional journey. He encouraged me to attend and finish high school, supported me to attend Aims and to transfer to UNC, and encouraged me to apply in my current position as a Senior Advisor.” Her encouragement and acceptance at home were echoed when she came to Aims.
She fondly remembers finding support immediately at the in-person Aims orientation when she met Janet Chase, who was then working as an admissions advisor at the time. Janet is now the director of student activities at Aims. “She has been a big influence and greatly impacted my life.” Janet connected Azanet to many resources, including TRIO Student Support Services, designed to identify and provide services for historically underrepresented students. Azanet applied to the program because “Janet does not take a no for an answer.”
Another person at Aims who pushed Azanet to go further is music professor Rick Busson, who encouraged her to copyright her original songs.“He just encouraged me without me even taking a class with him.” Other people on campus allowed her to record her mariachi music on campus. Her collection of songs was released in 2012. You can hear her music on all of the popular music streaming services.
Other Aims professors helped Azanet gain confidence along her academic journey. “I grew up being afraid of math,” she explains. “When I took math, it was a third-grade level class and I was asked, ‘What is eight times six?’ I remember freaking out, and my eyes just got so big, and I got scared. And I almost wanted to cry thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, this professor is going to say, what in the world is she doing here? What is she doing in college?’ But he looked at me and said, ‘Azanet, you can just use your resources.’ His action and words just impacted where I felt; you know what? Yes, I can. I don't have to be smart just in math. I can be smart in other areas. He was an amazing math teacher.” This gave Azanet the drive to move forward in math and other areas of study.
“When I graduated from Aims, I came to a conclusion that college is not just for smart people; college is also for those who are willing to work hard and those who are willing to go against all odds.”
Azanet says that working at Aims is rewarding, and she loves that she can “pay it forward.” In her work as a Pathway advisor, she strives to influence students in an inspiring and positive way to help them reach their full potential.
Watching students complete their journey, and seeing her part in helping them through it, makes her work meaningful. Azanet is proud to be chosen to read graduates' names at commencement ceremonies. “Working with students and then seeing them graduate is fantastic. It's like, oh, my gosh. And then call their names. That's just amazing. Hopefully, I get to do the same to change someone's life, just like someone changed mine,” she said.
Inspiring the Next Generation
In addition to being a passionate and motivational role model to students at Aims, her pursuit of higher education has positively affected her family.
Before Azanet began at Aims, she was a certified nurse aide (CNA). Her three-year-old daughter looked at her and said, “I grow up; I want to be like you. I want to be a doctor.” (She didn’t understand what a CNA was in contrast with a doctor.) Azanet realized her impact on her daughters. “I thought I needed to do something for them because if they want to be like mom, I want to ensure I can set a higher standard.”
Azanet recalls, “my girls were very young when I came to Aims, and I remember them coming to my advising appointments in the TRIO program.” Her daughters had an opportunity to attend a few classes. “I was taking a summer public speaking class with Professor Julia Weingardt and my daughters were waiting for me outside, and someone called security because they were outside.” The professor allowed Azanet’s daughters to sit in the class. “Julia treated them like a college student; it was so cool. She was amazing.” Her daughter Abi, took a class with Julia when she came to Aims, pulling it full circle.
Aims has a concurrent enrollment program for high school students to get a tuition-free head start on their college education by taking classes at Aims that simultaneously provide students with high school and college credit. Her daughters attended Union Colony Preparatory School with an opportunity to give Aims a try and work towards an associate’s degree.
Another way Azanet is paying it forward is by founding the Rosa Maria Foundation Scholarship in her mother’s memory, which assists undocumented students in attending Aims.
Azanet has a relationship at Aims as a student, parent and employee. She has advice for students considering attending Aims: “Get connected, utilize the available resources, and know that you're not alone. Never feel that asking a question is going to make you look dumb.”
Azanet's journey demonstrates the power of perseverance, dedication, and the impact that a supportive environment can have on an individual. Her experiences at Aims transformed her life and inspired her to give back to the community and help future generations of students realize their potential.
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Azanet Rodriguez is Paying It Forward to Next Generation