Student Spotlight: Lily Lizama-Rodas
When Lily Lizama-Rodas uttered her first words, it paved the way to her major, her extracurricular activities, her volunteer work, and, quite possibly, her career. However, it’s not what she said, but how she said it—in Spanish. Rodas grew up speaking Spanish in her Guatemalan
household and first learned English in elementary school.
Rodas is a senior majoring in
Spanish with a double minor in business and communication. She plans to continue her Ship education for two more semesters so that she can complete both of her minors as well as her certificate of translation. At Ship, she is a member of the women’s rugby team, new student orientation, and the
College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Board.
In order for Rodas to have gotten where she is today, she had some help. Although she is now bi-lingual, she said learning English was challenging. The rudiments of the language itself were an obstacle, but it also created a barrier with her peers, so it was difficult to
practice English in a social setting. “That was kind of challenging, too, not only because I didn’t know the language, but also because I didn’t have English friends to interact with,” she said.
In sixth grade, someone noticed that she was struggling and offered a hand. Her mother’s employer, William Gindlesperger, watched over Rodas every day after school to help her focus on her homework. Gindlesperger is a member of the university's Council of Trustees, a member of the
John L. Grove College of Business Advisory Board and works in Chambersburg.
“I guess I needed some guidance in my life, and that’s where he stepped in.” Today, Rodas calls Gindlesperger “dad,” and considers him an unofficial adoptive parent. “There are always people there to help you—who see the potential you don’t see in yourself, and it’s good to
open up and just let them help you,” she said.
Rodas refocused on school and was accepted into the Milton Hershey School boarding school program in 2009. She eventually earned a scholarship that helped her continue an education at Ship. “That kind of shaped my whole life actually. It gave me the discipline I needed to
continue going to school, and that’s also helped me with the scholarship I’ve gotten.”
At Milton Hershey, Rodas lived with several girls under the supervision of two English-speaking house parents. This is where Rodas became truly integrated into English culture. There are many subtleties between the Hispanic and English cultures that Rodas has learned. Now
she sees how both worlds differ, and most people don’t experience that, she said. “It’s opened my eyes to the many opportunities that there are and different ways of thinking about the world. I like to think that I’m very open-minded to things.”
Rodas said that adapting to unfamiliar situations has allowed her to develop a certain versatility that has and will continue to help her in unfamiliar situations.
“Everywhere there are going to be different kinds of people, who are going to interact differently, and if I can have a common ground with [them], we’re going to connect easier. … Because I can relate to a lot of different people, I think that’s going to help me in the future.”
Much of her volunteer work traces back to her desire to give back and help others who share her culture and background. Rodas’ Guatemalan mom raised her and her three sisters, one of whom is special needs, while working two jobs.
Starting her junior year of high school, Rodas began volunteering for the Chambersburg Hispanic American Center (CHAC) for a few hours after school each day. She said she loved it so much that she still returns to volunteer with CHAC several times each month. Whether it’s answering
phones or trying to connect more people to the center’s services, Rodas said it’s rewarding to help others who are experiencing similar challenges that she once faced. “For me, it’s a sense of giving back to my community.”
Rodas also mentors high school students through the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12, which is based out of Chambersburg and works with the Modern Languages Department at Ship. Many of the students who are a part of the program speak a language other than English. In the summer,
she volunteers at Building our Pride in Chambersburg, a program for low-income students.
Most recently, Rodas was voted vice president of SU’s Spanish club, which she has been a member of for the past year and half. She hopes to revamp the club and extend its outreach. “I want to get all of the students in the
Modern Language Department involved in the department as well,” she said.
Rodas plans to get her master’s degree and might pursue a PhD one day. Ultimately, she said she would like to use her Spanish on an international level by helping the US government communicate with people from Spanish-speaking countries. “It would be rewarding for me because I
would be doing something good for my country, for my cultures.”