Five years ago, Joseph Rodriguez, current Programs Coordinator for La Posada Providencia, arrived in the U.S. after fleeing his native country of Cuba. In a church in Brownsville, Rodriguez asked for help. A woman by the name of Sister Zita Telkamp, CDP, picked him up and took him to La Posada.
As some say, “The rest is history.” For Joseph, the history of the journey from Cuba to La Posada has been filled with emotion, hard work and success.
La Posada was Joseph’s first home while his immigration status was resolved. A U.S. law grants asylum to Cuban citizens who reach U.S. soil.
When he obtained his work permit, La Posada had a “help wanted” announcement for a cook. Joseph applied and received the job.
But Joseph had bigger ambitions. He enrolled at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) to pursue a degree in accounting. In the meantime, using his accounting knowledge and applying his hard work ethic, Joseph made his way up the employment ranks at La Posada, going from working as a cook, to program assistant, to programs coordinator.
Eventually, Joseph transferred from TSTC to the University of Brownsville, where he is a year away from acquiring his Bachelors of Business Administration, in Accounting.
And to add to his list of accomplishments, on Friday, Nov. 7, Joseph attended an oath ceremony where he officially became a U.S. citizen.
“I shed many tears from excitement,” Joseph said. “I felt like I was born again. This time, however, I was born again in a place where I have the right to choose how to live my life. I was born in a country where I had no choice, no freedom.”
Joseph thanks Sister Zita for her support from the moment the two met five years ago.
“She was the first person who gave me a hug and welcomed to this country,” Joseph said. “I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude to her and to all of La Posada’s and St. Louis Development Office’s staff; Sister Margaret Mertens and all the Sisters of Divine Providence; La Posada’s volunteers Janet Marcus, Sonia Cunningham and Marlene McClain; as well as all the people who have supported me during these five years.”
Sister Zita, who accompanied him to his U.S. citizenship ceremony, said everyone at La Posada was very proud of his accomplishments.
“Yes, our very own Jose Rodriguez Gonzalez was among 242 immigrants representing 18 countries who received their citizenship certificates at the McAllen Convention Center,” Sister Zita said. “We are so proud of you. Welcome to our American family.”
Aside from studying and performing his duties as programs coordinator, Joseph still makes time to talk with newly-arrived clients at La Posada and offer some words of advice.
“I give them words of encouragement and remind them that there are many opportunities in this country, but you have to be responsible,” Joseph said.
Watch the video on Joseph’s journey, featured at La Posada Providencia’s 2015 Hands & Hearts Brunch and Auction: