ESS Region 8: Nothing holding her back
June 13, 2022
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles honoring winners from each region in ACSA’s Every Student Succeeding program.
Ella Rodriguez Grade: 12 School: Christopher High School District: Gilroy Unified School District ACSA region: 8 Ella Rodriguez was born with a congenital birth defect that required the amputation of her foot when she was just nine months old. But throughout the years, life with a prosthesis has never slowed her down. She’s a multi-sport athlete and has set state records in shotput, but basketball is her true love. In fact, this fall, Ella will attend the University of Arizona where she will compete on the wheelchair basketball team. Off the court and off the field, Ella is an accomplished student. She was recently accepted into the WA Franke Honors College and plans to major in neuroscience and cognitive science.
What was your reaction when you found out you won the ACSA Every Student Succeeding award? I was extremely ecstatic. And I think the recognition that you offer for all students that deserve to be recognized speaks volumes about how much you all care about students in general and student athletes.
Can you share a bit about what your childhood has been like and how you’ve overcome those challenges? When I was first born, I was born with a club foot and a birth defect called fibular hemimelia. And at nine months old, doctors and my parents decided to amputate my foot. And because of this, I live out my life with a prosthesis. Initially, I was a very shy kid. I always hid behind my mom or my dad or even just inanimate objects in the grocery store. Staring was something that was constant and a daily struggle in my life, and just mobility in general, comparing myself to other kids. And, you know, just feeling different in every room that I walked into.
How much did your life change when you found the Challenged Athletes Foundation? When I found CAF, my life changed for the better. Not only was I provided grants for travel and for equipment, which is needed to live an active lifestyle, I also found a community of people that have a disability and that are adaptive athletes that I could look up to or just kind of relate to along with them.
As you navigated life with a prosthesis, how did your school community help accommodate your needs, especially from an athletics standpoint? In middle school, it was always a struggle to just simply get a timer and just arrive at the start line and be able to race in my own division. I was essentially racing against myself in track. And in high school, I was met with a coach who I dearly love. And he was super ecstatic about having an adaptive athlete and starting this journey of adaptive athletics with me and a few of my other teammates. And eventually, we actually started an adaptive team at our school.
To students who are in the thick of it right now and not sure how they’re going to get past the obstacle in front of them, what would your message be to them? I would say that change is inevitable, and you can look at that as a good thing and a bad thing. If you’re stuck in a situation that you want to get out of, change is inevitable, and you have to work for it. Additionally, the things that are meant for you will not pass you by and you just have to keep going.
Ella Rodriguez runs with a prosthetic leg.
Ella Rodriguez says basketball is her true love.
Every Student Succeeding
Each year, ACSA’s Every Student Succeeding program recognizes 19 pre-K-adult students, one from each geographic region, as well as two California adult education students, for overcoming the odds and achieving success. Students receive a $1,000 award and recognition for their accomplishments. The stories: Watch interviews with our students in ACSA’s weekly video series. Visit and each Tuesday for a new student story. You’ll also find their stories in EdCal each week. Celebrate their success: All ACSA members who are registered for Leadership Summit are invited to congratulate these students for their achievement during the Every Student Succeeding Recognition event, held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, during Leadership Summit in San Diego.
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