Pedro Rodriguez, UC Berkeley Student, selected as a 2022 Strauss Scholar

Pedro Rodriguez '23, a UC Berkeley College of Letters and Science student, has received one of the highest honors a student interested in public service can receive—the Strauss Scholarship.

This scholarship recognizes no more than fifteen students a year and awards them $15,000 to work on their project which focuses on social change/public service/social entrepreneurship. 

Pedro's interview covers the process of both applying and receiving the Strauss Scholarship, the journey of creating his project (Radio Union: Uplifting Farm Workers with Knowledge), and so much more.

More information about the Strauss Scholarship and other Prestigious Scholarships is available on the UC Berkeley Scholarship Connection website

October 10, 2022

In your own words, explain what the Strauss Scholarship is and what being a Strauss scholar means to you.

The Strauss scholarship allows students to create an impact by funding public service projects. Being a low-income first-generation farmworker, I could never have imagined that I would be a Strauss Scholar. I am grateful for the sacrifices and struggles that it took to be able to give back to my farm working community in the Central Valley. 

What do you plan to do with this scholarship and how do you plan to utilize your sociology background?

I have worked as a farmworker most of my life and hope to uplift the community with the support of the Strauss Foundation. My project will focus on empowering farmworkers with educational information through radio broadcasting by partnering with Radio Bilingue in the Central Valley. 

Tell us about your project, Radio Union: Uplifting Farm Workers with Knowledge, and how you reached the finalization of your proposal.

To better understand the laws and regulations that impact agricultural workers, my project will connect our audience with non-profit law offices and environmental health specialists for support and aid. The information we plan to share will be centered on workers’ rights, legal documentation resources, environmental health and safety, etc. This project will evolve as a public information service by targeting all workers and having translators for different languages. 

How did your experience as a Berkeley student prepare you to both apply for and be awarded this scholarship?

Being a first-generation student attending a prestigious institution like UC Berkeley gave me the opportunity to have access to resources to be able to apply and receive a competitive scholarship like this one. I am grateful for those who fought for underrepresented students like me to take space at Berkeley and uplift marginalized communities. 

Are there any personal moments or stories that stick out to you when you look back at both applying and receiving the scholarship?

Yes, I remember talking to some friends and family about applying for the scholarship and then taking some of their advice on how to form my project proposal. 

It was motivating to know that people outside of the agricultural community were in support of this project. 

Are there any classes or professors that still stand out to you during your time at Berkeley?

Yes, Professor Mary Kelsey was one of the first to hear about my project and believed in my vision. Apart from writing a letter of recommendation for me, she reassured me that the project would make an impact. 

As a Sociology major and a Chicano Studies minor, I have been honored to learn from some of the most authentic and down-to-earth professors to teach. Sociological theory has taught me how complex the world is and how crucial it is to build community. 

Do you have any advice for others who might be interested in applying for this scholarship?

Apply! The scholarship foundation has been so supportive and helpful. If you are interested, reach out to the Strauss foundation person of contact or Alicia Hayes, they are excellent at what they do. 

On a more lighthearted note, how did it feel to become one of the twelve 2022 Strauss Scholars, and who did you tell first of your accomplishments?

I felt just as nervous and grateful as I did when I got accepted into Berkeley. I thank God for blessing me with this opportunity and hope to help my community. 

The first person I told about the scholarship was my sister. My older sister is at Berkeley Law School and my younger sister is about to start her third year here at Cal. They know more than anyone how much this meant to me since we all worked in the grapevines of Delano at a young age.