John Rodriguez was born and raised in Humboldt Park. He joined the U.S. Army at the age of 17 and was on active duty for 6 and a half years. During that time, he was deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait. When he finished active duty, he was a part of the Army National Guard for a year and a half. Because his National Guard duties were limited to one weekend each month and two weeks of training in the summer, John also started working full-time as a machine operator and supervisor for a plastic pouching company.

When the company laid off most of their employees, John thought going back to school and getting a degree would be the best way forward. He was also motivated by his daughter, now seven years old. Thinking he wanted to study business, he found Harold Washington College (HWC), with its Center of Excellence in business and professional services. He started classes there in the spring of 2016, and using his Post-9/11 GI Bill funding, he was able to attend full-time.

While at Harold Washington, John says he spent a lot of time in the Veterans Services Center.

“It was a good place to get away from studying for a while and relax with people you could relate to,” he said.

He also used the resources available there, like a study lounge, and tapped into the knowledge of Veterans Services Specialist Marcus Williams. John graduated from HWC in May 2017 and transferred to UIC.

Now at UIC majoring in marketing with a minor in accounting, John says that his time at HWC really prepared him academically for the classes he’s taking now. He’s spending his time studying, playing on UIC’s table tennis team, and looking for an internship so he can get some experience working in an advertising company – his career goal after he earns his bachelor’s degree this spring.

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