McALLEN — As a boy, Orlando Rodriguez’s father taught him some of life’s biggest lessons in the tomato fields.
As he grew up, those lessons helped lead him to a doctorate degree in psychology, Rodriguez said.
Now, he runs a private practice after teaching psychology for 12 years.
When he was about 10, Rodriguez’s father took the family into the tomato fields to learn about hard work.
“I can remember picking tomatoes,” Rodriguez said. “He took us in the summer to teach us how difficult it was in the sun and heat.”
At the time, his father was also teaching him to play the accordion, the instrument whose melodies resonate in Mexican-American working-class genres such as Tejano music.
Years later, Rodriguez was playing with the legendary Tejano singer Jessy Serrata.
“It brought in a little bit of income,” Rodriguez said with a chuckle.
After he graduated from Mercedes High School in 1995, he enrolled in Pan American University in Edinburg, where he studied for two semesters before leaving college.
“I went because my friends were going,” Rodriguez recalled. “But I really wasn’t that interested.”
But when he took a job at a restaurant, he remembered his father’s lessons.
“I was working in the kitchen — in the heat — and I had a realization that I should make use of my intelligence and make something of myself,” Rodriguez said.
So he went back to college.
This time, he picked psychology as his major.
“I had an interest in the topic — the concepts,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to help those who had mental health issues.”
In 2003, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pan American University before earning his master’s degree in clinical psychology in 2005.
Soon, he was licensed as a clinical psychologist, teaching at South Texas College in McAllen.
In 2012, after five years of study, he received his doctorate degree in psychology from Walden University, based in Minneapolis, Minn.
Today, he runs RDZ Psychological Clinic in Mission.
“It was a long journey,” Rodriguez said.
Now, Rodriguez believes his journey can teach others about the importance of following a career path.
“Be consistent in what you have an interest in and work hard at it,” he said. “Don’t give up on your dreams.”