Robert Rodriguez comes from a family of nurses, but he didn’t feel the urge to become one himself until his youngest sister was born with Down's syndrome.
The West Coast University-Los Angeles nursing student said that he and his family were overwhelmed at first because they didn’t know much about Down syndrome. So Rodriguez did some research and came across the Down Syndrome Association (DSA) Buddy Walk, which happened to be going on in Los Angeles that weekend.
Robert with two of his rescue dogs.
Robert also volunteers with rescue animals, and has rescued three dogs, one of which was given 48 hrs to live. Three years later, she is alive and thriving. "I think it's important to help all life. A homeless person, a dying patient, a friend, your classmate, a dog, you never know who will need your help the most."
“The support and community I found with the Buddy Walk was amazing,” Rodriguez shared. “I told my family, ‘We can do this, we’re going to be fine.’ And we’ve participated in the walk for the past nine years.”
Rodriguez is a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and works with hospice patients in addition to his nursing studies. In his spare time, he is on the board of directors for the DSA Los Angeles, where he recently was selected to be a sibling advocate for the association. He’s also on the fundraising committee for their outreach programs and serves as volunteer coordinator for their annual Buddy Walk, which he brought awareness to recently on his campus.
“I was so excited that this year, West Coast University Los Angeles had 80 volunteers for the Buddy Walk!” Rodriguez shared. “The president of the association even said ‘I love West Coast University’ because he was so impressed with our volunteer efforts.”
Rodriguez is enjoying his work in hospice and while he says it can be challenging and heartbreaking at times, it is incredibly rewarding to help both patients and their families.
“Volunteering with the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles has inspired me to help anyone that needs assistance – which is the foundation for nursing.”
Even with a packed schedule, Rodriguez still finds time to give back to his fellow classmates as a Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) tutor at his campus.
“I used PAL when I was struggling with a course and was grateful that my school has so much support,” he said. “I was shy in asking for help and a lot of nurses are too because we’re trained to be independent. But WCU has a lot of support and resources and when you do ask for it, it’s really insightful and helpful.”
And Rodriguez is well on his way to achieving his dreams, all while touching the lives of everyone he meets.
“For me, it all comes full circle. I get to develop more as a person, help my sister and others. This experience will help me be more well-rounded as a person and nurse,” he said.