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STC Welding student and SGA president has learned to ‘trust in his mistakes’


At one point working in a factory for minimum wage, William Ashe Rodriguez talks about an extraordinary life change that enabled him to enter South Texas College and impact students as president of Student Government Association at STC’s Technology campus. 

At one point during a difficult stretch, recent South Texas College graduate William Ashe Rodriguez recalls the decision that landed him in a wheel assembly factory working for minimum wage as he sought to save enough money to move to the Rio Grande Valley with his father.

Living in Indiana at the time, Rodriguez recalls struggling in high school and the difficulties there prompted him to impulsively drop out of school his senior year and begin working at the factory full-time.

Day after day for six months, Rodriguez said he would punch in and work on the assembly line, but the experience would teach him much about real life and the impact of leadership, which he would utilize at STC.

“I was a lowly floor hand. We would take the rims, put them on the mounting machines, mount the wheel on the rims, and send it down an automated conveyor line that would inflate them,” Rodriguez said. “Along the way, I saw a lot of flaws with the leadership there, so much so, that the factory itself was going downhill because workers couldn’t relate to the leadership. The experience allowed me to take the lessons I learned there and apply them here when I arrived.”

You're going to have to trust that even if you do make mistakes, even if you do fail, you can still make it. You can still learn from your past mistakes and become better for it. So, take the plunge.

William Ashe Rodriguez, STC Welding graudate

Rodriguez said it was the biggest decision of his life to uproot himself from Indiana to move to south Texas. After receiving his GED online, he began at STC in the fall of 2021 with the goal to pursue a degree in welding.

Two years later, Rodriguez was among the graduates to earn a certificate or degree from STC at its Commencement Ceremonies on Dec. 9.

“I was a blank slate when I arrived here in terms of what I wanted to do, but I saw welding as an extremely useful skill with zero doubts about what it could do for my future. The welding instructors here at STC have been great and everything has been pretty streamlined,” he said. “What really sealed the deal for me though was when I realized that STC offered a lot of resources I used to support myself including the food pantry, tutoring and open labs as well as opportunities to get involved on campus.”

The food pantry, which began as a way to get a free lunch, became his introduction into Student Government Association (SGA) and Student Leadership Academy (SLA) at STC’s Technology campus. Through his involvement, Rodriguez said he served as a senator, officer and finally president of SGA and SLA.

Becoming involved on campus and advocating for students through leadership on SGA gave him the opportunity to encourage students to strive for their dreams, he said. 

“Through my past, I was introduced the hard way on what it means to manage small and large groups of people, and developing an actual connection to those who are all working together for a common goal. It’s about finding a way to put differences aside and come together,” Rodriguez said. “As far as mistakes – I speak from experience that no matter how scary new opportunities may seem, there are still opportunities, and you have to take advantage of them. You're going to have to trust that even if you do make mistakes, even if you do fail, you can still make it. You can still learn from your past mistakes and become better for it. So, take the plunge.”