Johansen High School principal Nathan Schar said junior Angel Rodriguez comes and talks with him every day, asking if she can help him.
Coach Tony Harper said Rodriguez comes to softball practice with a smile and ready to listen and learn.
That positivity is all the more impressive when taking into account all Rodriguez has to deal with. Her mom has had issues with drugs all her life. Her stepdad and siblings live at the Gospel Mission in Modesto.
There have been family issues for all of her life, Rodriguez said.
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“I don’t let it define me,” she said. “I am Angel. I am just an average person that goes to Johansen that plays sports. I like to make people happy.”
The person who likes to make others smile was the one with the biggest grin on her face Monday as Rodriguez was named the 2019 February Semper Fidelis Athlete of the Month in a pregame ceremony before the school’s home softball game against Central Valley.
The award honors one female and one male athlete each month who possess “the fighting spirit to overcome any obstacle.” Rodriguez was given a jacket, a plaque and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., this summer to work and learn from the Marines.
“It’s not that I need the recognition, but it’s good to be recognized sometimes,” Rodriguez said. “I like to think the stuff that happens to me doesn’t mean I have to have a bad outlook on life.”
ESPN play-by-play broadcaster Beth Mowins was the guest speaker. Mowins, the first woman to call a nationally televised Monday Night Football game, said Rodriguez is a great example of how much determination and dedication can accomplish.
“The dream is alive, and the dream is achievable,” Mowins said.
Rodriguez, who lives with her friend Asia and Asia’s mom, has a 3.34 GPA and plays on the basketball, softball and volleyball teams. She was fourth on the basketball team with 6.2 points per game this year and scored 22 runs for the softball team in 2018.
“She is an incredible kid, and I am lucky enough to have her on my team,” Harper said. “I didn’t have a catcher for one game last year, and she came in and caught for me.”
Rodriguez played in the outfield last year and is now the starting shortstop. The three-sport athlete also is the president of the school’s Black Student Union.
“She always comes to school with a positive attitude and is one of those kids that no matter what will always be smiling,” Schar said. “It’s very unheard of to come across a person like this.”
Rodriguez wants to be a registered nurse one day because she loves helping people.
On Monday, family and teammates cheered for Rodriguez, with her smallest fans yelling and clapping and hugging her.
“Family is very important, and I am so happy with the amount of family that showed up to this event,” she said. “I didn’t think that I was going to get that many people, and it goes to show if they truly love you, then they will pull through for you.”