The Buffalo News published a story about Sergio Rodriguez’ past struggle with student loans. This story was also covered by WGRZ. Sergio does not believe this article gave the full story and issued the following statement to shed light on the issue.
Today Phil Fairbanks of The Buffalo News wrote what I feel is an irresponsible article that is out of touch with the realities facing most residents living in the City of Buffalo.
I was a young man, seeking an associate’s degree at Empire State College. I was working a number of low-paying jobs to make ends meet. Financially; I fell into some hard times and was unable to pay my student loan.
As a result, the State of New York took action to recover these funds.
I pulled myself up and took responsibility. I paid back every single penny I owed.
Today I am proud to say that I have earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Medaille College.
As an immigrant growing up in America, my family didn’t have much. Both of my parents achieved only an eighth grade education. My dad was a taxi driver and my mother worked at a factory for many years to support our family.
We struggled and knew that bumps in the road were a part of reaching any goal. This has been the case for me. Like many of today’s residents I have had times where despite working multiple jobs I have not been able to make ends meet. Life is not always easy, but if we keep our goals in mind it is possible to achieve them.
In 1998 after finishing high school I joined the United States Marine Corps. I rose to the rank of sergeant and completed two overseas deployments. I received numerous awards and medals in recognition of my service in defending our nation. I served honorably in that capacity until 2003.
When I left the service, the transition wasn’t easy. My dream when I came to Buffalo was to get a college degree and work to serve the community. However, the economy had a different idea in mind for me. I had to put my college career on hold, and like many residents in Buffalo, had to work three jobs simultaneously. I have found myself at times without a penny in my pocket as I struggled to pay bills. There were times where I wondered if getting a college degree was obtainable under the circumstances.
With faith and perseverance I overcame many obstacles. I’ve had the privilege to serve my community in numerous capacities including leading nonprofit organizations and founding committees that have gone on to accomplish incredible tasks in our community. I have been recognized by established community organizations and governmental agencies alike for my deep involvement in the community.
For several years I had the honor and privilege to serve our returning men and women as Deputy Director of the Erie County Veterans Service Agency, and more recently as Coordinator of Veterans and Military Affairs for Medaille College. Serving in that capacity I built a program from the ground up which recognized Medaille as the nation’s 8th best college for veterans.
Today I hope to serve as an example of what can still be accomplished in America regardless of the obstacles we may have to face. Going through hard times is something that many of us can relate to.
Although I am not proud of defaulting on a student loan I am proud to admit that I took responsibility and paid back my debt in full.
“The Marines have a phrase that I will always live by, “Adapt and Overcome.” After overcoming past obstacles I now proudly serve the community with the goal of working with the residents of Buffalo to help us overcome the obstacles that face this great city.”