RCHSS Graduate Patrick Rodriguez Makes Georgia Trend Magazine’s “40 Under 40” List
KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 4, 2022) — Kennesaw, GA (Oct 4, 2022) – From KSU dropout, to convicted felon, to KSU graduate with a Bachelor’s in Organizational Communication, Patrick Rodriguez continues to challenge stereotypes of the nation’s incarcerated population and confront institutional systems that block pathways to transformative educational opportunities. Rodriguez is at once an anomaly and the average guy – with a prison record. His commitment to changing a system that fuels a punitive approach versus an intentionally rehabilitative strategy is central to his mission to break down barriers to Georgia’s incarcerated population interested in pursuing higher education.
Having made a life-altering decision that landed him in prison, Rodriguez says, “I left prison after four years determined to make more of my life. I was the first person in my family to graduate high school and attend college, but not the first to be incarcerated.” He is standout because of his determination to live up to this goal and because of his accomplishments since being released. The most recent accomplishment being inclusion on Georgia Trend Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list, which recognizes outstanding leadership and accomplishments of Georgian’s who are making an impact in business, education, community service, and politics. Yet, he will be the first to tell you that he is not unique in that there are many people who are incarcerated who are just as focused on getting an education or earning a degree to prepare them for a better life.
Rodriguez’s lived experience of fighting his way back into Kennesaw State University, fighting to prove that he is a member of a community that, given a fair shot, can overcome a criminal record, has driven him to fight for change. During his incarceration he took a three-credit course from Berry College, which reignited his desire to complete his degree. Once released and with $3000 to his name, Rodriguez made another life-changing choice – to take half of that money to pay his outstanding debt to KSU and reapply. But it wasn’t that simple. He had to disclose on the application his criminal record. The application process for those who have a criminal record is different from those without a record and he says this creates an adverse experience for those who are trying to better themselves through education. After writing an extensive essay and collecting numerous letters of recommendation, Rodriguez was accepted back into KSU. “Graduating with a degree was a big deal for me because it was a signifier that I have completed a part of my life that I had to work so hard to get to. As I work to grow both personally and professionally, I will never forget the experiences that I went through.”
Today, his “calling” is to advocate for better access to higher education for the incarcerated. Rodriguez serves as the Co-Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition for Higher Education in Prison for which he secured $1 million in funding to expand educational pathways for incarcerated. He has been appointed to serve as the Interim Director for GA State Universities Prison Education project. In 2021, he launched the policy campaign Beyond the Box, which is working to remove the question that asks about criminal convictions on college applications. Other achievements that supported his inclusion on the “40 Under 40” list include completing the Education Trust’s Justice Policy Fellowship, being accepted into the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials’ Institute for Leadership, and serving on the Advisory Board for the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He is also a recipient of the 2022 Canary Impact Prize, a prize awarded by the Canary Impact Fund that is “dedicated to funding decarceration organizations & initiatives that are led and/or meaningfully informed by leaders who are directly impacted.” As far as he knows, Patrick Rodriguez is the only convicted felon and person still serving on parole who has been included on Georgia Trend’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list. He continues to advocate for this cause and travels around the country speaking on the topic. He says, “As I work to grow both personally and professionally, I will never forget the experiences that I went through. This for me is so significant because I can be an example to what is possible for those who have gone through similar life experiences.” Click here to read more.