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He's a student leader who wants to mentor other kids

Danny Rodriguez helps his family with their business while excelling at school. He will be teaching other children at camp this summer how to succeed.

July 03, 2009|Juliette Funes

At age 6, Danny Rodriguez was waking up at 5 a.m. every weekend with his family to sell flowers at farmers markets throughout Oxnard and help other farmers sell their food.

Now 13, he continues to help his field worker parents run the small business, which garners little income because of diminishing sales.

"There are days when there's enough, and there are days when there aren't," his mother, Lilia, said. "But we have to keep fighting."

Danny, however, doesn't mind helping if it means staying out of his gang-plagued neighborhood and maintaining his family's well-being.

"I know it's hard to get money, especially in these times right now," he said. "We haven't been struggling terribly, but I hope that part of that reason is that I helped them."

A migrant with little education, Lilia hopes Danny will "go to school and prepare himself and not work in the fields like us," she said.

Danny has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, was valedictorian of his eighth-grade graduating class and is the youngest president of the Future Leaders of America Master Achievers, a leadership training organization for Latino youth based in Ventura County.

The teen first went to the organization's Leadership Camp at Mile High Pines in the San Bernardino Mountains last summer. Instead of being recreational, the camp is a workshop with a variety of presentations on public speaking skills, college admission requirements and understanding the importance of education, said Paola Reyes, development coordinator of the Future Leaders of America.

"The purpose to all this is to help him become a leader, graduate high school and go to college," she said. "All of this makes them aware of what's going on outside and makes them wonder what they want to do when they graduate."

Eager to develop his skills, Danny is one of 30 kids returning this summer to volunteer for the camp's administrative team. He will be a mentor to 90 campers ages 13 to 17.

"I want to go again because I know this program helps people, and it'd be pretty cool to know I'm helping someone," Danny said.

With $1.8 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, about 8,000 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.

The Summer Camp Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.

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