In 2012 she was a 17-year-old high school student who realized her homeschool credits were not going to earn her an official SC high school diploma and she needed to find another option very quickly. She only had four units that would count towards her diploma. Today at 25 she is married with a four-year-old son and preparing to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in December. Her plan is to pursue a master’s degree in social work at USC-Columbia.
“I’m proud of myself. I never expected to feel this accomplished,” said Rodriguez, a native of Anderson who now lives in Aiken.
She credits the Connect to College (C2C) program and its staff for helping to elevate her confidence level. “The thing that was great about C2C is the support from everyone. It’s not just about school with them; they care about you as a person and what’s going on in your life.”
The program was designed to help academically capable students, age 17-20, accomplish their high school diploma while earning college credits. Although the program is no longer active as districts have continuously improved retention in their schools, many students who earned their diplomas through the program continued their education at Tri-County and some transferred to other colleges and universities to complete higher degrees.
Rodriguez spent the majority of her youth being homeschooled. She admits she was disinterested in school and didn’t do the work to be successful. At 14-years old, she decided to try public high school, but realized it was not the right choice, and she went back to homeschool, unaware that the credits would not count. “I didn’t have goals. I wasn’t thinking about the future. I was just living my life, doing homeschool.” At age 17, the revelation that she would not have a diploma set her into action. She knew she had to make a decision. A friend told her about Connect to College.
“I said, what do I have to lose? I was accepted into the program and it changed my life,” she said.
Rodriguez came to C2C in the fall of 2012 with one English, one math, one history and an elective credit. Although she did not ever attend Westside High School, they agreed to sponsor her to come into C2C.
Her placement test revealed she needed developmental courses in math, reading, and English to prepare her for success in college-level coursework. She enrolled in two Fast Track classes for math and English her first semester. “I didn’t know how far behind I was until then,” she said.
Tri-County’s Fast Track programs are designed to increase student success and retention which provides students with an individualized learning experience that allows them to move more quickly and effectively through their pre-curricular sequence and into their program of study.
The classes were just what she needed. “I got serious about my studies. Back then I was grateful when I received a C. Today, I’m disappointed in myself when I don’t earn an A,” said Rodriguez.
She earned the remaining 20 high school credits through C2C along with 36 college credits. She graduated in the summer of 2015 at 20 years old with her high school diploma and maintained a 2.8 GPA.
After graduating she moved to Aiken with her husband and enrolled at Aiken Technical College where she earned 60 credit hours through its university transfer program. She then transferred to USC-Aiken and majored in sociology.
She says several incidents happened that led her to the field of social work.
“My husband is a youth pastor, in addition to his full-time job as a construction engineer. At times I help these kids at church through situations. I realized I wanted to do this professionally --this is my niche. It’s very rewarding. Ultimately I want to work with sexual abuse victims on military bases. I want to help others. I am a huge advocate for those who can’t or don’t know how to speak up for themselves,” she said.
“I’ve realized with the right path, the right people and the right program, anybody can turn it around. I’m a living example,” said Rodriguez, who made the dean’s list once and the president’s list twice at USC-Aiken.
During times of reflection, she said, “Sometimes it’s overwhelming. I’m so happy I’ve come this far.”
“After graduating, Katelyn told me she was going to stay at home and start a family while her husband worked, and then later, she would go back and continue college.,” said Tiffany Rogers, student support specialist for the I-BEST programs at Tri-County Technical College. “I was concerned as some people have a difficult time resuming college after starting a family, but she was an amazing young woman and followed through with exactly what she said she would do. She has a wonderful gentle nature and is generous towards all who are around her and grateful for all the blessings she receives. In addition, she has always put the time and effort into all she does, from education to family to community. This is obvious upon looking at her accomplishments and her family. I am and have always been very proud of the young girl who has grown to be an amazing woman.”
About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities.