Bethsaida Rodriguez – Judson University

When she was in fifth grade, Bethsaida Rodriguez began running for fun. A coach helped her get rides to practice and track meets, and helped her acquire running shoes. Her interest in the sport grew, and she ran in high school. She got a few offers to run at the college level, choosing to attend nearby Judson University, where Rodriguez is on the university’s cross country and track teams.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to run or not in college, but then I saw it would be an opportunity for scholarship, so I went for it, and now I’m running here at Judson,” she says. The sport has given me a lot of opportunities and a lot of chances to do things that I wouldn’t have done without the sport, so I’m very grateful for it.”

Rodriguez, who was born in Mexico, came to the United States with her family at age three. She lives in Elgin, Illinois, with her parents and four younger brothers. When she chose Judson, Rodriguez was interested in culinary education. But her running career led to a major in Health Promotion and Performance, specializing in exercise sports science. “It makes me a better athlete. It makes other athletes better athletes. I found a connection there, I liked it, and I stuck with it,” Rodriguez says. She added a minor in psychology, which she sees as an important component in development of athletes. Though undecided about a career after college, Rodriguez expects to work in some aspect of the sports industry.

Her father has helped her pay for tuition, but earlier this year, he was unable to work. Rodriguez reached out to Judson for financial help. The university offered her a lifeline by awarding her an ACI General Scholarship, which helped her remain in school. “I was freaking out, you know?” she says. “I was super, super thankful to find out the scholarship was available. Honestly, thank you so much. It’s been a big help, and I appreciate you, the donors, everybody. It’s just been a weight off the shoulders.”

“Thanks to people such as the donors, and other help that has been brought into my life, I’ve been able to get by and to get through these barriers,” Rodriguez adds.

In addition to school and her running career, Rodriguez is a co-president in the Judson Student Organization, working with commuter students. She helps organize events and social gatherings for commuters. She is also a mentor to first-generation students, sharing her experience as a first-generation college with first-year students.