Juggling School and Life Outside the Books


For many students, school is their top priority; for others, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on school because they have so much going on in their lives. So, how do they take care of an ill or disabled family member, hold a full time job, or drive long distances to make it to class every day?

The answer is simple. It takes a lot of determination.

Take Serena Rodriquez, a junior at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Making It Worth It

While Serena was pregnant with her daughter, Zell, she went into kidney failure and her daughter was born prematurely in 2012. This resulted in both mother and daughter requiring a lot of care and time to heal. Once both were healthy, Rodriquez realized that it was time to go to school, and she chose Santa Fe Community College.

“I just felt like I was sitting around wasting my time and that I needed to get up and make something of this, make this worth it,” Serena said.

She graduated from Santa Fe Community College with an associates of fine arts degree in creative writing in Spring 2017. She transferred to IAIA to obtain her bachelors of fine arts degree in creative writing and started this fall.


A lot of students go through their own struggles while attending school, but all go through the same emotional turmoil. Students’ struggles may be different from others but they can all sympathize with one another.

Serena said one of her biggest challenges is when her daughter gets sick. “It hits her hard and fast, and oftentimes that means hospital time.”

Serena recalled last year when her daughter got sick. “She spent three weeks in the hospital and then had to be out of school for two months after that.” Serena had to miss a lot of school as well. “I had professors that were very kind and worked with me, but it makes it very challenging, and plus because of my kidney transplant, I have to take immunosuppressants,” Serena said.

“My immune system is purposefully weakened to keep my body from rejecting my transplanted kidney. I can get sick very easily. Also, I get very tired, like exhaustion, not just an ‘I could use a power nap’ tired, and I can get some pretty nasty migraines from the medicine.”

Support Is Needed

 Asked about how the professors at IAIA have been compared to her other school, she said “Everyone’s been nice and helpful.

“My kidney numbers were not doing very good this semester. Zell had already started getting sick, so I just went to part-time to just kind of get my bearings.”

Serena was taking four classes this semester but had to go down to two. “Next semester I hope to take four to five classes,” she said.

Asked how IAIA could further help her with her challenges, she said a support group for students who are dealing with certain situations would be helpful.

“My situation and my daughter’s is very unique, but everyone’s emotional challenges are the same when it comes down to it,” Serena said. “It would be really nice to have some kind of support group to get you through that.   Cross my fingers that we all stay nice and healthy.”

Featured Photo: Serena Rodriguez (Photo by Lindsey Toya-Tosa)


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