Karla Rodriguez travels around Texas telling students about the dangers of tobacco. She has traveled to El Paso, Odessa, McAllen, Austin, and even other states as one of the top leaders in tobacco prevention in Texas.
Rodriguez is a teen ambassador for a project called Say What! Say What! stands for Students, Adults, and Youth Working Hard Against Tobacco! and was created by Texas youth to help connect everyone working toward reducing tobacco use throughout the state of Texas.
Say What! teen ambassadors are high school students who are passionate about the movement and focus on tobacco prevention and awareness. They actively lead tobacco prevention efforts in their own communities. Say What! is a student led organization where Rodriguez’ responsibilities are to help put on their action summits and to facilitate workshops.
“I got involved my freshman year of high school and became a teen ambassador my sophomore year,” Rodriguez said. One project Rodriguez facilitates in the Kilgore community is called the Cigarette Butt Cleanup. “We go around with gloves and plastic bags and collect cigarette butts found on the ground. We replace each cigarette butt with red a flag just to show how prevalent smoking is and how harmful the second hand smoke is,” she said, “When we finish and look back at all the red flags it’s really shocking.” The cleanup of this toxic trash shows how relevant the issue of tobacco really is.
In addition to the Say What! project, Rodriguez is a Kilgore High School senior and also a member of the KC TRIO program on campus. Rodriguez got involved with TRIO through the Upward Bound program.
Upward Bound serves high school students and helps to guide them in their preparation for college entrance.
“They provide a lot of support for anything we need to get done. They help us with projects and also have computers and other helpful resources that give us access to things,” she said. “They’ve just been a really big help with everything, it is an amazing opportunity for high school students who could benefit from academic support to prepare for college and what is in their future.”
She is an involved high school student who is focused on her future. Rodriguez is a member of the Science Club, Robotics Club, Rocketry, Key Club, Art Club, National Honors Society, SayWhat,! Model UN, Citizens Bank Board, Smart Start, and she even takes dual credit English and Government classes at KC.
Upward Bound Project Advisor LaKendra Weir said, “Karla is very hardworking, very diligent and she approaches her goals with a clear mind. You don’t find many seniors who are already working on college applications and scholarships as early as she was. She understands that going to college after high school is very important to her success.”
Her outstanding determination for success hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rodriguez was recently awarded a scholarship from the National Hispanic Heritage Foundation, which she received with a personal visit to SMU in Dallas. She plans on majoring in Computer Science and to hopefully attend UC Berkeley or UT Austin.
“My education means a lot to me and my mom sacrificed so much so I want to make a difference and make her proud,” Rodriguez said.