Meet Donna Rodriguez

Meet Donna Rodriguez; Three Strokes Couldn't Stop Her From Getting Her Degree


Lying in a hospital bed, Donna Rodriguez remembered something — she needed to pick up her diploma. But she was stuck in bed, partially paralyzed, and in no shape to go anywhere. Her degree was finished, but her diploma was out of reach. So her daughter, Mayra Rodriguez, took the final step for her.

Rodriguez had worked in the aircraft industry her whole life. For years, she had worked at Learjet, a local airplane manufacturing company, putting wiring into planes. Learjet was where disaster first struck. Donna Rodriguez had a stroke, paralyzing her right side for three weeks. But her mind was set — she wouldn’t let her body give up. Movement slowly returned. She started walking again. She was using a walker, but she was mobile.

Then disaster struck again. Learjet laid her off. A rainbow came after the rain, however — Learjet was offering a program for recent layoffs. If Donna Rodriguez went to school and finished a degree in two years, the company would pay her tuition.

Teaching kids was her lifelong goal. A single mom with five children of her own, she never had the time or money to chase that dream. Until now. Taking 21 hours a semester at Wichita State while studying elementary education, she worked as a teacher’s assistant at Griffith and Colvin elementary schools, helping with fourth graders and kindergartners. She grew attached to the classrooms.

She was wrapping up her degree when the second stroke hit on the Fourth of July. This one was worse. It immobilized her left side. Read the rest of Donna’s story here.

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