This is part of a series of profiles featuring noteworthy 2012 high school graduates from around Cache Valley.
The campus of Logan High School has taken on a different tone in these last few days of school, as students race out of the building at the end of the day in euphoria for summer.
But meanwhile, Hazel Rodriguez stays busy at work, flanked behind a U.S. Army recruiting table with some of her senior National Guard officers.
There’s no place she would rather be — and she could not have even imagined it two years ago, after losing her father, having to keep track of four brothers for several years and then missing and failing some of her classes.
“I feel great,” Rodriguez said of her graduation from Logan High School, which will take place at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at Utah State University on Wednesday. “Finally, after 12 years school is over; we get to start our lives and go where we want to.”
Having completed basic combat training in Ogden and Logan last summer, Rodriguez is in the Reserves awaiting her assignment to Fort Lee in Virginia in July for advanced individual training.
“I did a complete 180 once I joined the military,” Rodriguez said. “I’m healthier now, since struggling with my weight. I think better about certain situations. I’m a better person now because of all of the discipline.”
But Rodriguez doesn’t plan on making the military into a career. She wants to go on to USU and admits she can’t decide what to major in — but it could be agriculture, social work or nursing.
Rodriguez’s path to success was not an easy one. She grew up in Edinburg, Texas, a town close to the U.S.-Mexico border, with four brothers. Her mother worked at a restaurant in a gas station with a typical 12-hour shift.
Her father worked for the city of Edinburg. When Rodriguez was young, he was in an accident when a piece of equipment from a nuclear power plant fell on him while he was touring the facility. He suffered complications with his back and never worked again — although he could walk — instead resigning himself to taking care of Rodriguez and her four brothers.
When Rodriguez was 9 years old, a hurricane whipped through southern Texas and ripped the roof completely off of their brick Edinburg home. The family survived, but the house didn’t. So they moved in with Rodriguez’s grandfather nearby until the state of Texas approved a complete rebuilding of their home.
Her mother got a job at Miller’s in Cache Valley, and the Rodriguez family moved to the area in the summer of 2007. They lived in the Motel 6 for awhile until they found a home in Logan.
Rodriguez finished off the year at Mount Logan Middle School.
Then, on Dec. 30, 2007, Rodriguez’s father died from complications due to his injury.
“It was tough because my brothers looked up to him; now they looked up to me,” Rodriguez said.
Her responsibilities changed instantly. She was in charge of getting her two younger siblings up and off to school at 6 a.m. Then she would walk to school instead of taking the bus.
Rodriguez arrived at Logan High as a freshman in 2008. By that time, because of her overwhelming responsibilities at home, school took a back seat. She was late for many of her classes and failed to turn in assignments. Then, she would skip the seventh hour of class and take a Cache Valley Transit System bus to her younger brother’s school to pick him up.
“That really messed up my education,” Rodriguez said.
So Rodriguez made arrangements to have her brother transfer to another school, so it would be more convenient for her to pick him up.
One of the first people Rodriguez met at Logan High School was Kirk Allen, the vice principal, who visited the Rodriguez household one day to talk to her brother Scott about his attendance problem there.
“She had a pleasing personality, but I think given her situation at home, education was not always expected, and, in some cases, not always praised. Her parents didn’t know how to be successful in school,” said Allen, noting that Rodriguez’s parents both never graduated from high school. “It wasn’t ‘the thing’ to go out and get an education; you just didn’t.”
With Allen’s help, Scott overcame his tardiness and pulled up his grades.
Allen said Rodriguez was frequently tardy and missed a lot of material in the classes. Some classes she failed “because she didn’t know how to ask for help,”
Allen and his wife took Rodriguez under their wing and helped her get back on track with her school work. Over time, they’ve gotten to know her personally, taking her on trips to Bear Lake during the summer and having her over for meals.
Allen’s wife and Rodriguez both have an interest in sewing and scrapbooking. Rodriguez said she feels so close to Allen that she calls him “my grandpa.”
The turning point for Rodriguez was when her brother Scott overcame his problem and graduated from high school last year.
“He’s the first person in our family to earn a diploma, because my mom didn’t finish high school and my dad didn’t finish high school,” she said. “Once he graduated, I felt like I could do it too. I thought to my self, ‘Now I’m going to be the second one to get a diploma; I want to do something with my life.’ My mom told me, ‘I want to see that diploma with your name on it; you’re my only daughter.’ and I felt like I wanted to do it for her, because she’s my hero.”
Allen saw that her brother’s success at school “put education up high on Hazel’s expectation for herself.”
“Over the years, she developed the skills to be successful in high school,” Allen said.
Allen said he’s been very impressed with certain qualities of Rodriguez over the years.
“Hazel has been a main part of keeping things in order in that family,” said Allen. “She’s right in the middle (in the order of birth of her siblings), so every time I’ve associated with Hazel, I’ve noticed what a caregiver she is to all her brothers. She has expectations for them; she’s their biggest cheerleader. She cares more about her family than she does about herself.”
Allen is happy to see Rodriguez graduate. He says her work in the military has helped her become “disciplined and prepared” for that moment.
“I think she’s worked hard at it; it hasn’t been easy,” Allen said. “But I found that Hazel is a very intelligent young lady. I think that given the opportunity, Hazel will make her mark in our society. She wants to have a job; she wants to have an education; she wants to do good things.”
Rodriguez is amazed at her progress.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have though of all of this two years ago. I wouldn’t even imagine being in the military, but I did it!” Rodriguez said.
Logan High Graduation
When: Wednesday, May 30 at 3 p.m.
Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at Utah State University
Valedictorian: Amy Ashby, Jacob Cazier, Jameson Hartman, Trevor Jewkes, Donna Lee, Alyson Oblock, Laurie Shirk, Caitlin Thurston, Anne Torre, Yiran Wang
Graduates: Alice Natalie Acosta, Melvin Albizurez, Braxton James Alldridge, Christine Anderson, Hayden Anderson, Jessica Anderson, Kayla Anderson, Mitchell Anderson, Shad Anderson, Cydney Cathleen Andrews, Kaylee Lauren Andrews, Shuweii Andrews, Sidney Kelly Andrews, Jonathan Antonio, Garrett William Archibald, Gabriel Joseph Archuleta, Josue Emmanuel Arredondo, Amy Ashby, Bretton Ashcroft, Brooklyn Jane Atkinson, Anine Austvold, Roosa Autio, Victoria Awada, Michelle Stephanie Ayala, Eduardo Baltazar, Maritza Barrera, Rodolfo Barriga, Kayla Marie Barton, Jesse Bautista, Joe Bennion, Analyse Benson, Kristen M Berkemeier, Kade Beutler, Rebecca E D Bitter, Warren Navar Black, Taylor C. Blauer, Dallan Blotter, Kevin C Bodily, Benjamin Bonilla, Scout Boudrero, Vanessa Lynn Broadbent, Stephen Brown, Jennifer Budge, Preston Kendall Bullen, Jacey Nicole Bunce, McKenzee Kae Burbank, Omar Bustos, Anna Butler, Jessica Vargas Cabrera, Hillarie Sloane Caputo, Michael Cardona-Reyes, Edgar Carlos, Casey Carter, Cindy Valerie Castaneda, Jacob Cazier, David Chamorro, Lyndsay Champlin, Viridiana Chavez Cruz, Joshua Kyunghoon Cho, James Christiansen, Strawsee Lee Christiansen, Caitlyn RaNae Clark, Dalton D. Cole, Braxton Conrad, Taryn Rae Coolie, Joseph Frank Coppin, Ryan Andrew Corbett, Evelyn Cornejo-Balderas, Kolter James Cottle, Ivonne L. Cruz, Colin Michael Cunningham, Philip Cutler, Madeline Daines, Darian Michael Daniels, Dereck Darley, Chad Brandon Dautrick, Mena Kanani Davidson, Sherlin Denetsosie, Samantha Joyce Dickson, Durrette Dimry, Brianna Brook Dineen, Lucas Dornelas, Aimee Claire Du Toit, JoLee Marie Eastman, McKenna Edwards, Kylie Elwood, Matthew Porter Emery, Rebecca Lynn Engberg, Ray Lorin Engberson, Megan Elisabeth England, Eric G. Ermer, Jennifer, Michelle Espinoza, Shay Esplin, Diana Laura Estrada, Jessica Estrada-Ramos, Erica Sarah Janecke Evans, Macauley Blaine Everhart, Skye A. Ferguson, Justice Fife, Andrew Finlayson, Tevon Chad Fisher, Luis Flores, Mindy Fluckiger, Amy Fowler, Katie Francis, Scot Phillip Frodsham, Vickie Valoy Fuhriman, Damaris Priscilla Garcia, Dora Lee Garcia, Maria Adilene Garcia, Lucas Gasparin, Sarah Lynn Gee, Jacob Gehrke, Morgan Gensel, Ian Sinnott Gerbec, Meikele Olivia Gittins, Tomas Andrew Gonzalez, Ivonne Gonzalez Cruz, Erika Goodwin, Jessica Granados, Melissa Grant, Treavor Heath Green, Tanner Patrick Greenwald, Daniel John Gregory, Joshua Griffiths, Patrick Israel Gudiel, Aubrey Ann Gudmundson, Lauren Marissa Guest, Vanessa Michelle Guido, Brittny Jo Gunnell, Cinthia Jahaira Gutierrez, Kelly Michelle Gwynn, Brianna Lyn Hallberg, Breanna Marie Hancey, Jordan MiKenzie Hanks, Matthew Hardman, Nathan Lee Harris, Isaac Thomas Harrison, Forrest Hart, Jameson Graham Hartman, Levi David Hash, Markaye Hassan, Nathan Z. Hauet, Rachael Lauren Hauet, Jennifer Hawkes, Rebecca Leigh Hebert, Logan I Henline, Alexandra M. Hernandez, Irwin Hernandez, Martha Guadalupe Hernandez, Dustin Gregory Hicken, Joshua Taylor Higham, Shawn Hill, Kyle Mackenzie Hillman, Quinn Edward Hinckley, Courtney Maree Hofland, Johnny Vereen Holden, Jr., Dallas Michael Holfeltz, Jordan Houston, Jessica Howard, Mari Cruz Huerta, Karrie Hunt, Rebecca Huppi, Marcilene Maria Hyer, Sunirae Inn, Maria Isabel Islas, Kylie M. Jackson, Amy Elizabeth Jackson-Smith, Robert Patrick James, Taylor Beau James, Jessica Marie Jarvis, Tanner Jarvis, Dakota Seville Jeffers, Braden Jenkins, Andrea Lynne Jensen, Camille Rebecca Jensen, Christian Lee Jensen, Cristina Lee Jensen, Jacob Christian Jensen, Trevor Jewkes, Elise Johnson, Joel Hyrum Johnson, Keigun Johnson, Max Johnson, Max Jordan Jolley, Derek Jones, Eleanor Elizabeth Judd, Mae Yan Be Kama Din, Jennilyn Kartchner, Collin J. Keyes, Benjamin Kiflom, Janice Kim, Aydin Kircalli, Benjamin Kitchens, David Joseph Klaassen, Spencer Knowles, Ryan Kobe, Caesarea Kritz, Daun Kwag, James Lachmar, Woodrow K, Laing, Brittany Lamborn, Erick Antonio Landaverry, Gabriela Landaverry, Jared Rick Larkin, MaKayla Larsen, Jorge Edison Lascano, Shauni Latu, Donna Lee, Corey Lester, Ellena Rebecca Limb, April Marisa Linares, Megan Lindquist, Jennifer Ray Lindsay, Ashley Littell, Gisela Loya, Johnathan D. Luke, Jacelyn Lukenbill, Abigal Anna Luman, Karlie Major, Arianna Marcolongo, Rachel Marcum, Cristian Marquez, Anthony R Martinez, Juan A. Martinez, Alvaro Jose Martinez-Rubiano, Jacob Wayne Masslich, Viliami Vainga-i-Moana Matangi, Brooke Mathys, Lwan Bo Maung Cho, April Paw Maung-Kwee, Than Soe Maung-Kyi, Blade Terrell McDade, Michael McGough, Laura Rachelle McKay, Spencer McKay, Austin R. McMonigle, Isabella Frances McNamara, Thomas E. Mendez, Gabriela E. Mendoza-Jaime, Haylie Lynn Merritt, Austin Burke Millard, Mychal Aaron Millburn, Skyler Miller, Thomas Ryan Miller, Savannah Emily Milligan, Angelica Maria Molina, Lay Win Moo-Chip, Whitney Afton Moosman, Coral Moser, John W. Muhs, Asha Ahmed Mumin, Grisel Munoz, Destinee Munson, Russell Murphy, Maira Nava, Tristan Naylor, Kaitlyn Neick, Bryan Jeremy Nelson, DJ Nelson, Jacob Craig Nielson, John Edward O'Hara, Alyson Browning Oblock, Edwin A. Okyere, Erin Rosemary Olson, Peter Olvany, Brenda Pacheco, Felicia V. Pacheco, Abigail Page, Colton R. Parker, Michael Patrick Parker, Molly Parker, Spencer Lee Parkinson, Zachary Patenaude, Latu Ikokoula Pauni, Gavon Edward Peck, Brittany Jean Peterson, Jamie Peterson, Ace Thomas Phillips, Raymond Phillips, Ian Pierson, Erick Popoca, Moroni Pradera, Thomas Price, Olga Martha Prieto, Kristopher Layne Pyfer, Nidia Ramirez-Pimentel, Rebecca Ransom, Evan Russell Rasmussen, Joshua Raymond, Amanda, Catherine Reale, James Victor Reed, Matthew O. Reed, Nathan Reichard, Anthony H Restrepo, Amanda Nicole Rhodes, Austin Kevin Rice, Brittney Rich, Brandon Riches, Zachary Paul Ringle, Cesilia T. Rodriguez, Hazel Iris Rodriguez, Karen F. Romero, Tania Rosales, Aurora Rosas, Ashley Rozanski, Felipe De Jesus Ruiz, Kaitlynn Sadler, Jimmy Saenpaseuth, Adalberto Salas, Antonio Salazar, Beatriz Saldivar, Jose Luis Salgado, Stephanie Salinas, Nathan Salisbury, Tyson K Saltern, Zane M. Saltern, Devid Sam, Jose Ignacio Sanchez, Valdemar Sanchez, Joseph F Santos, Charles Manion Saul, John Schmidt, Cortney Selley, Serey Rachana Van Seng, Noxzee Setema, Shannara Nicole Shamo, Zia Shelley, Chloe Shepherd, Laurie Shirk, Madison Anne Shupe, Heena H. Shyamdasani, Gabriela Silva, Bharti Singh, Ashley L. Smith, Dallas Smith, Sarah Snow, Cruz J. Soto, Coleton L. Spackman, Jessica Sparrow, Sarah Spencer, Stephanie L Spray, Rikki Michelle Stallings, Dylan Paul Statts, Dean M Stein, Tyler Curtis Stewardson, Vanessa Jean Sullivan, Peter Summers, Satin Tashnizi, Alexander Michael Taylor, Shalyn Marilyn Theurer, Kierstin K Thigpen, Madison Thomas, Jacob T. Thompson, Caitlin Thurston, Anna Elizabeth Byrne Torre, Gage Kevin Tremayne, Sarah Tyler, Skyler Joseph Valdez, Janette Ely Velez, Yamila Cristina Ventura, Cameron Jon Violette, Tyler James Violette, Angela Nicole VonNiederhausern, Tayler Wallentine, Beverly Caroline Wallis, Yiran Wang, Hampton Ware, Kaden Watson, Shaun Christopher Webb, Paige Wegener, Joseph Weiss, April Werner, Michael White, Austin Robert Wiley, Audrey Willmore, April Elise Wilson, Emily Kay Wilson, Rulon Sean Wood, Christopher Ryan Woodbrey, Luke McQuarrie Worthen, Holly Wright, Taylor Wyatt, Juleah C. Yazzie, Deyssy Zarate.