Collier woman goes from working in the fields to getting degree at FGCU

Posted at 11:59 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 23:59:05-05

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Cynthia Rodriguez knows a thing or two about growing up poor.

She grew up in a migrant family.

"We faced many, many challenges," she says, "having to migrate to three different states in a year, having to move to three different schools."

And even when she and her sisters were in school, they were still needed to help the family stay afloat.

"I would actually go and work in the fields," she says.

However, her parents also made it clear they wanted her to take a path that was not available to them - a formal education.

"My parents always drilled that into my head," she says, "that education is the key to success."

That's what makes her graduation from Florida Gulf Coast University such a point of pride for the family.

Her sisters also made her parents proud.

"They both graduated from FGCU as well," she says.

Now Cynthia is working on her Master's degree at FGCU.

She's got a young daughter but still finds time to work as a public relations and marketing representative for Pathways Early Education Center of Immokalee.

She says, despite her busy schedule, she's determined to pave the way to a better future for kids who grew up like she did.

"And that's my motivation," she says, "to strive and help these children here in Immokalee that need a lot support and help."

Her efforts - along with that of many others - are paying off at Pathways.

The center is thriving.

And it's in big demand.

"The need continues," says executive director Beth Hatch.

"We have 500 on our waiting list."