Youth Spotlight: Hector
From volunteer, to part-time Young Adult Leader, to a now full-time Youth Organizer, Hector Rodriguez is the picture of success here at Queens Defenders. Hector is a leader among his peers, but his journey to get here was not always an easy one. Three years ago, Hector was headed down the wrong path. He was skipping school, making bad decisions, and hanging out with some not-so-great influences. He knew he had to turn things around, but couldn’t find the means to do it.
On October 5, 2017, when Hector was sixteen, his life changed forever. His father passed away unexpectedly, and it was on that day that Hector knew he had to make a drastic change. More than ever, he wanted to make his father proud; and he recognized that he needed to care for his mother and siblings.
In the days after, Hector reflected on what to do. He’s an athlete – basketball and football – so he considered using sports to pull himself up. He always dreamed of being a police officer, but that possibility was many years away. He had options, but he still sought more.
In July of 2018, Hector stumbled upon Queens Defenders’ Rockaway Outreach Center. At the time, it was still under construction. Determined to keep himself busy over the summer, he came inside and offered to help. He’s been with us ever since. For five months, Hector volunteered in any way he could. He helped out around the Center, he brought ideas for events and workshops to the staff, and helped spread the word about the newly opened Center to the Far Rockaway community.
Our staff at Queens Defenders saw real promise in Hector. Everyone was impressed by his commitment to volunteering, even when he knew that his peers were getting paid for similar tasks. For Hector, it was always about helping his community and making his family proud. After five months of volunteering, Hector was officially brought on as a Young Adult Leader.
“Hector has grown into a young man who’s realizing his true potential. Observing the change has truly been an amazing experience. Always having a strong work ethic, Hector also motivates team members and community residents. He encompasses the phrase “Far Rock Strong” and I couldn’t be prouder.” –Brandon Jeffries Director of Youth Programs
Over the past two and a half years, Hector has become an integral member of the Community Outreach Team and was recently promoted to Youth Organizer because of his energy and determination. Hector actively seeks relationships with community members to build the program at the Center. He has formed relationships with City Councilmembers, teachers and principals, sports coaches, police officers, and more. Hector is recognized on the street by people of all ages, and he proudly represents Queens Defenders.
Through his transformation, Hector has achieved great success outside of his role at Queens Defenders, as well. Hector graduated high school, and is set to attend LaGuardia Community College starting in January 2021, with a scholarship he won from an essay contest. He is also on track to fulfilling his dream of becoming a police officer. Hector has worked closely with the Community Affairs Police Officers at the 101st Precinct, and he is set to start classes for the Auxiliary Police Officer program.
Queens Defenders is proud to have Hector on our team. At 19 years old, he has accomplished more than most people his age, and he is not done. To support Queens Defenders youth programs and see more of the great work visit here.