Rigoberto Eugenio Rodríguez cried after his father left Oregon for Oaxaca eight years ago to attend his mother’s funeral and didn’t return because of a lack of documents..
Eugenio missed his father, Mario Eugenio, so much that his mother decided to move the family to reunite with the father.
“I felt like I was in the right place with both my parents,” said Eugenio Rodríguez, who participated in Madera South High’s 15th graduating class on Wednesday evening.
Now, Eugenio Rodríguez misses his mother, Aurora Rodríguez, who sent him back to the United States seven years ago so that he could focus on his education. She can’t visit because of her immigration status.
“I feel guilty now because if I hadn’t been sad the first time, my mom would probably be here with us,” said Eugenio Rodríguez, who moved in with an older brother in Madera and enrolled in the high school’s migrant education program.
When he marched across the stage to get his diploma at Madera Memorial Stadium, his parents initials were inscribed on his mortar board.
He is one of six children.
Eugenio Rodríguez, who graduated with a 2.8 GPA, (“It’s not the best, but I graduated,” he said), works in the fields when he has time so that he can buy clothes and other necessities. He sends half of every paycheck to his parents, because “there’s no work” in the village they live in.
His father is an Uber driver, said Eugenio Rodríguez, but that work is sporadic. He last saw his parents in December 2021.
“I try to go every December, but I haven’t gone recently,” he said.
Even though they live far away, his parents constantly remind him to do well in school.
“Every time they call me, they say ‘We love you,’” said Eugenio Rodríguez. “And they tell me to go for something big.”
Eugenio Rodríguez will report in August to North Caroline for boot camp after enlisting in the Army National Guard.
Growing up, he thought of becoming a police officer. His plans now are to become a California Highway Patrol officer.
In the meantime, he continues to work in the fields or playing basketball when he is not playing guitar with Grupo Angonia Norteña. The band – which plays cumbias, rancheras, corridos and zapateados – welcomed him to the group two years ago.
How did he learn to play the guitar?
“My sophomore year, when my brother Jesús came back from Oregon bought it and told me, ‘I want you to do something else instead of just going to school or just being on your phone,’” said Eugenio Rodríguez.
He watched YouTube videos to learn how to master the guitar.
At a glance
Madera South High / June 7, 2023
Madera Memorial Stadium
Latino enrollment: 93.6%
Highlight: There were two highlights. First was student Elvin Pablo-Morales playing ‘Romanza’ on the guitar to honor those who died during the last year. Second, was the honoring of valedictorian Naysa Villa as having the highest GPA, at 4.65. She will be attending Notre Dame in the fall and major in biological sciences.
Quote: Student speaker Morelia Vierya Santana: “I encourage all of you to chase your biggest dreams and pursue every single one of your passions to reach your full potential. May God bless you in your future endeavors.”