Arrupe College Blanca Rodriguez

“I was very invested in becoming a part of the community at Arrupe. It felt like a home away from home.”

Blanca Rodriguez’s life, back in 2016, was a blur of commitments. She’d enrolled in Arrupe College the previous fall, attracted by the affordable price and its connection to Loyola University Chicago, which Rodriguez hoped would open doors unavailable to traditional community college students. Four days a week, she would commute from her family home on the Southwest Side of Chicago, riding to Maguire Hall on two L lines, books tucked into her backpack. When she wasn’t studying, she was working: hosting at a restaurant down the block from campus, helping her mom with household errands, babysitting when she could carve out a few spare hours. When she wasn’t studying or working, she was rehearsing with Arrupe on the Beat (the school’s dance team), running meetings as vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, or hanging out in Pilsen with her classmates. “I was very invested in becoming a part of the community at Arrupe,” she says. “It felt like a home away from home.”

Her schedule only intensified when Rodriguez transferred on scholarship to Dominican University, in 2017. Dance team? Check. Part-time job? How about three of them. Challenging coursework? You better believe it. She wasted few opportunities, no matter the determination required. “I always told myself, ‘just do it,’” Rodriguez says. “I would do anything I could, and I wouldn’t plan for it.”

As she wrapped up at Dominican, Rodriguez felt supported by her Catholic faith and her training at Arrupe, where she’d formed deep relationships with her professors and learned how to manage her time effectively. Her motivation was never in question, either. Rodriguez’s father (a cook) and mother (a nanny) moved to Chicago from Mexico and worked their tails off to provide a full life for their daughter and her two younger brothers. Rodriguez hopes to repay the favor one day; with a stable career, she could help her folks relocate south of the border, where they’d like to retire.

Dominican’s commencement took place in May—for Rodriguez, hearing professors talk about their own post-grad experiences “was a great motivational session.” Between June and November, she’ll head to Guanajuato, Mexico, to take classes in both psychology and dance (in Spanish). She’d like to be a dance therapist eventually, working with the disabled or with sexual abuse survivors. In the meantime, she’ll sit shotgun while her younger brother, Erick, adjusts to life at Arrupe, where he’s set to matriculate this fall.

Her sisterly piece of advice? “If he ever struggles, he needs to ask for help.”

The Big Picture

In its first five years, Arrupe has continued to evolve—and transform lives

Jacky Cruz

Taking lessons from Arrupe to a massive state university

Asya Meadows

Building her future at her new school, Loyola University Chicago

Brandon Thomas

Finding his way, to help others eventually do the same

A new school

Launched in 2015, Arrupe College is a two-year associate’s degree program that provides a rigorous liberal arts education to motivated students with limited financial resources and an interest in attending a four-year institution. In 2017, the first class graduated with an associate's degree. This spring, 47 percent of that first class earned their bachelor’s degree in four years—two years after they walked at Arrupe's inaugural commencement. An additional 37 percent is on track to graduate by the end of the year. Learn more about Arrupe from its dean and executive director and how to apply.