Sharon Valle Rodriguez

Merrill '21, Latin American and Latino studies and legal studies

Sharon Valle Rodriguez (Merrill '21, Latin American and Latino studies and legal studies0
Sharon Valle Rodriguez (Merrill '21, Latin American and Latino studies and legal studies)

Relocating to New York for her senior year at UC Santa Cruz because of the pandemic wasn't exactly an unprecedented move for Sharon Valle Rodriguez. Born in Spain, she's moved at least once every three years, from Mexico to Texas, Arizona, Indiana, and California.

But it was here that she truly found herself.

"When I started at UCSC, I was just an 18-year-old girl who was unsure about everything," she said. "I learned to be independent and to take care of myself, mentally and physically. I learned about emotional intelligence. Now I believe in myself and know I can achieve my goals. I know where I want to go and how to navigate the spaces I am in."

One of the things she already misses from her time on campus are the trees, the beautiful skies, and adventures like the one she had with her roommate to the Garden of Eden, aka the Big Rock Hole on the San Lorenzo River. It was a steep, sandy path down to the swimming hole, and they got disoriented on their way back, finding themselves lost in the forest in the dark of night. 

"Together we eventually found our way back, and it's a memory I now cherish," Rodriguez said.

As an Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) student, she benefitted from various academic and personal support resources for first-generation college students from low-income and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. She's gotten work experience, too, as an administrative receptionist for EOP.  

Pursuing majors in both Latin American and Latino studies, and in legal studies, seemed to come naturally for Rodriguez. During her very first class, she discovered a passion for the subject matter. She realized that immigrants are often criminalized in our society, which has led to her plan to pursue "crimmigration," the convergence of criminal law and immigration law.

This month, when she accepts her diploma, she'll be the first in her family to graduate from college, and she'll do it in three years, with high honors in both of her majors.

She plans to work for two years as a paralegal or legal clerk to gain experience in the legal field. She'll also study for the LSAT and start her application for law school, with the hope of becoming a public defender.