2021 Tillman Scholar
Fleeing narco-terrorism and persecution, Rodrigo and his family immigrated to the United States from Colombia under political asylum in 2001. In 2015, Rodrigo enlisted in the Marine Corps as a signals intelligence analyst, inspired and driven by gratitude towards the country that had taken his family in. Two years into his service, Rodrigo was selected to serve as part of the security team at American embassies abroad, completing three subsequent tours in Luanda, Angola; Beijing, China; and Jerusalem.
Navigating intricate and dynamic environments overseas made him quickly realize the importance of empathy and communication. These invaluable experiences exposed him to vibrant cultures, as well as the harsh realities of worlds beyond his own. In Luanda, he witnessed the struggles of Congolese refugees fleeing ethnic killings in their home country. In Beijing, daily reports of human rights violations towards Uyghur Muslims underscored the dangers many minorities face. Serving in Jerusalem challenged him to learn about complex geopolitical conflicts and their far-reaching effects on individuals’ lives.
Through close relationships with the people he met all over the world, Rodrigo’s enlistment further solidified his dedication to service and inspired him to make meaningful impacts in vulnerable communities. After separating from the military, Rodrigo graduated from the Pennsylvania State University, cum laude, with a degree in economics. Now, he is pursuing a law degree. Carrying his personal experiences as an immigrant, he hopes to serve underrepresented communities by providing legal services and advocating for immigrants and asylum seekers.