Carlos Rodriguez first enrolled at CUNY City Tech in 1998.
He didn’t get a chance to finish his degree, but he held on to his old ID card for twenty-five years — and is now a student here once again.
“In my heart, I always knew I wanted to come back to school. I don’t know when that was going to happen, but I knew that eventually it would happen,” Rodriguez said.
Back in ‘98, Rodriguez was studying electromechanical engineering, but found he was going to be a father and that changed his plans.
“I had to unfortunately drop out of school and seek employment,” he said.
He got a union job sweeping floors as a porter, and eventually became a stationary engineer, operating and managing a building’s equipment and machinery. With support from his union, the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 94, last fall, he enrolled at City Tech once again — working nights and attending class during the day, aiming to earn his bachelor’s in facilities management.
“Some of my classmates could be my children,” he laughed.
In fact, one of them is. Rodriguez’s twenty-year-old daughter, Isabel Rodriguez, is also a City Tech student.
“We joked around and said that people were going to call us twins because we look alike,” she said.
She knew her dad was worried about the age gap with other students, but they’ve both found it matters little at City Tech.
“It doesn’t really matter about whether you’re 40 or whether you’re 19 or 18. Everyone sees you the same, and you actually would connect with older people,” she said. “And you probably think as a younger student like wow, I would never talk to someone that’s my dad's age or develop a relationship — but it happens.”
Rodriguez’s English professor, Mark Noonan, says he stands out as an active participant and gifted writer.
“The older students, which I’ve taught a number of them, they really bring a kind of maturity and life experience — and they do tend to be the anchors on the class where they, you know, they participate, but they share their stories and a lot of them want to give back,” Noonan said.
For others who are considering heading back to class, Rodriguez says don’t hesitate.
“Learning is a lifelong process,” he said. “It’s never too late.”