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Inspiring Conversations with Erika Rodriguez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erika Rodriguez.  

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I joined Rotary International 15 years ago, starting with Interact in high school. During my junior year, I attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) for a weekend camp, where I first got the Rotary spark. This camp empowered me at a young age to create my first career goal: to start a nonprofit organization. 

I continued my Rotary journey with Rotaract, club for young professionals 18 or older, by joining the University of San Diego (USD) Rotaract Club and serving as President from 2012-2013. In addition to making lifelong friendships, I spent Saturdays volunteering at community gardens, cleaning up local beaches, building homes in Mexico, painting local elementary schools, being a co-facilitator at RYLA, and hosting professional clothing and food drives. While at USD, I studied abroad and was able to join the Rotaract Club of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and this was my “Rotary Moment” that made me feel at home even though I was thousands of miles away. I was welcomed with open arms to a new club, had friends with the same values as me, and made lifelong friendships. Rotary has provided me with a global family, and connecting with individuals worldwide has been remarkable.

After graduating from USD, I chartered Pacific Beach Rotaract, a community-based Rotaract club in 2016 for young professionals seeking community and wanting to make an impact. Creating a club from the ground up gave me skills that I’m sure contributed to starting my own marketing company in 2020. I had to recruit members, create a marketing strategy, manage a board of directors, get Rotary sponsors, and conduct a monthly business meeting. In our first year, Pacific Beach Rotaract donated more than $1,100 to community and international causes, worked alongside eight organizational partners alleviating homelessness in San Diego, completed 278 volunteer hours, removed 895 cigarette butts from our adopted beach Crystal Pier, and organized 16 social events also to have fun together. It’s been an amazing organization to be a part of, and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Pacific Beach Rotaract. In addition to starting a community-based Rotaract club, I served as District Rotaract Representative (DRR) to help grow Rotaract Clubs in San Diego from 2017-2018.

Through Rotary, I’ve been able to travel to many countries for service projects and attend the Rotary Conventions every year in June. In 2019, I served as the US Ambassador for the Rotaract Pre-Convention in Hamburg, Germany. I’ve also served as a Director of Big West Rotaract MDIO, supporting Rotaract clubs on the west coast of North America. For 2022-2023, I’m serving again as District Rotaract Representative (DRR), supporting all the Rotaract clubs in San Diego and growing the Rotaract brand. That’s where I am today! 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Our Rotaract Clubs in San Diego were growing steadily, but due to Covid-19, many of our young professionals moved back home, took another job outside San Diego, or went to grad school. All the clubs went virtual, but unfortunately, some found it difficult to do service projects online and organize their business meetings without facing Zoom fatigue. We currently have two active university-based Rotaract Clubs at SDSU and UCSD for students. We have two active community-based Rotaract clubs in Pacific Beach and City Heights for young professionals. We are actively looking for students who want to re-start USD, CSUSM, and young professionals looking to start a club in North County San Diego. Please let me know if you are interested, and I’d be happy to assist.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Rotaract brings together young professionals to exchange ideas, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service. Similar to Rotary clubs, Rotaract clubs take action through service. We champion peace, fight illiteracy and poverty, help people access clean water and sanitation, and fight disease. Our newest cause is to protect our planet and its resources. 

With 10,698 Rotaract clubs worldwide, we are both an international organization and local community leader. Benefits of membership include: 

– Volunteer opportunities to serve the local and global communities 

– Connect with like-minded community members who are passionate about helping others 

– Professional development opportunities by attending Rotaract and Rotary workshops, conferences, and conventions all year-long 

– Public speaking skills, Rotaract develops confidence and skill in public communication and the opportunity to practice and perfect these skills with our partnership with Toastmasters International 

– Networking opportunities with Rotaract and Rotary network all year-long 

– Volunteer hours tracking, see how much impact you are giving back 

– Leadership development opportunities by joining our Board of Directors and Rotaract District Leadership 

– Monthly socials include trivia nights, Padres & Gulls games, movie nights, and more! 

– Lifelong friends, we must be if we do all this together! 

 

Each Rotaract club is unique as Rotaract members decide how to organize and run their clubs, manage their funds, and plan and carry out activities and service projects. See below for a list of our San Diego Rotaract Clubs, when they meet, and how to contact them. 

Community-Based Rotaract Clubs: 

– Pacific Beach Rotaract – meets on the 1st Tuesday of the month from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM at Discover Pacific Beach, 1503 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 

– City Heights Rotaract – meets on the 2nd Tuesday of the month from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM at Ocean Discovery Institute, 4255 Thorn St, San Diego, CA 92105 

University-Based Rotaract Clubs: 

– San Diego State University (SDSU) Rotaract – current SDSU students are encouraged to reach out for meeting information 

– University of California San Diego (UCSD) Rotaract – current UCSD students are encouraged to reach out for meeting information 

We are also actively growing Rotaract clubs at our Universities and San Diego neighborhoods. If you don’t see a Rotaract Club near you but are interested in learning more or joining, please email me at drr@rotaract5340.org. 

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Service Above Self is the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout my Rotary journey. I’ve been fortunate enough to have joined the Rotary family at such a young age, which has provided me with countless opportunities for my professional life and personal growth that I would not experience otherwise. Rotary has also given me an outlet where I can give back to my local community and serve with other members to make a lasting impact. 

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