Streetwear Designer Juan Rodriguez Wants to Use His Education to Give Back
Juan Rodriguez, Gabelli School of Business (GSB) at Rose Hill ’23, is no stranger to the value of hard work. Inside and outside of his life at Fordham, Rodriguez’s days are driven by a commitment to working diligently and helping others.
“Being able to do something for others means the world to me,” said Rodriguez. “Mostly offering any information, guidance, and immediate aid that I was in need of when I was younger, and knowing the difference it could have made for me makes it all the more meaningful.”
Rodriguez’s first job was working as a counselor at the Alpha and Omega summer camp in the Bronx. It was there that Rodriguez realized helping others was a passion of his. As a South Bronx native, Rodriguez said working with young people in his community was an impactful experience, and since then, he has made it a goal to give back whenever possible.
During his first two years at Fordham, Rodriguez’s efforts have been noticed by those around him. His hard work has gained him leadership positions in campus organizations and recently helped him earn admittance into the New York Collegiate Institute, a scholarship program that supports African American men. Rodriguez hopes to use his experiences in the program to achieve his long-term goals of supporting Bronx residents.
“I hope to be something my mentees can rely on for insight on things such as internships, mentoring events, and managing the workload that Fordham can often offer.”
Helping Others on Campus
On campus, Rodriguez is a mentor in the Gabelli School of Business peer mentoring program. The program is a student affinity group for and contributor to GSB’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, which aims to cultivate a “more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community” at Fordham. Rodriguez joined as a first-year, hoping to receive some guidance while adjusting to college.
“What encouraged me to become involved in the GSB mentorship program was trying to find some guidance during my transition from high school into Fordham, more so guidance into the direction I wanted to go into in the business world,” Rodriguez said.
As a sophomore, Rodriguez is now the mentorship program’s youngest mentor. His main focus is to provide students with the same level of support he received as a mentee.
“I focus on how comfortable my mentee is at Fordham and things like that,” Rodriguez said. “I hope to be something my mentees can rely on for insight on things such as internships, mentoring events, and managing the workload that Fordham can often offer.”
A Good Candidate
Rodriguez’s work in the mentorship program was one of the reasons he was referred to the New York Collegiate Institute this past January. Each year, the Institute selects 15 students from over 20 New York colleges to participate in its program.
Most applicants for the Institute are invited to apply based on recommendations from the faculty of their colleges. Rodriguez was recommended for the program by Marisa Villani, senior assistant dean for undergraduate studies in GSB.
While Rodriguez’s reputation on campus is what got him recommended for the Institute, it was also his hard work outside of Fordham that made him a good candidate for the program.
Colin Ganges, an alumnus fellow for the New York Collegiate Institute, recruits scholars for the program and said the Institute looks for a variety of characteristics when choosing scholars. The work ethic that Rodriguez exemplifies is one of these qualities, Ganges said.
“We’re looking for students who are working hard in class, we’re looking for people who are involved on campus, and we also look for people who are involved off campus,” said Ganges.
Rodriguez’s work off-campus includes running COHRTA, his own streetwear clothing company based in the Bronx. Rodriguez was inspired to start the company to pursue his creativity and provide others with a new take on casual fashion.
“What motivated me to start COHRTA was the goal to emphasize comfort in streetwear fashion,” Rodriguez said. He also liked it “as a means to express myself and the creator in me, rewarded with seeing people wearing things I create, a feeling that I’ve always wanted.”
Rodriguez launched COHRTA in December of 2019 and had his first clothing release in March of last year. Since then, Rodriguez has measured the success of his company by monitoring the locations he ships to.
Rodriguez said receiving orders from different parts of the United States and internationally is a huge success for the brand and that he hopes to continue to see his company grow.
“I feel like for the time it’s been around, we’ve had a lot of success, much more than anticipated, and I’m really grateful for that,” Rodriguez said. “My biggest goal for the company is to be as global as possible, and to make COHRTA a household name.”
Being involved with the New York Collegiate Institute will provide Rodriguez with opportunities that align with his mission at COHRTA. Over the course of the next year, Rodriguez and the Institute’s other scholars will get the chance to hear from guest speakers and participate in other networking events. Through these opportunities, Ganges said the Institute introduces students to individuals established in various career fields.
“What we do is not for any one field. It’s general in the sense that it benefits everyone,” Ganges said. “For a lot of students, (guest speaker events) exposes them to fields that they’ve never heard about or have a misconception about what the day-to-day life in that career is like.”
Rodriguez said he is eager to hear from these guest speakers, specifically in regard to learning more about potential career paths. While Rodriguez hopes to continue running COHRTA, he is also interested in learning more about investment banking. “That’s really one thing I hope to take advantage of, to meet with one of these consulting firms and go into their offices and get a real good look at the work they do,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is a finance major at Fordham and plans to use his degree to give back to his community in the South Bronx. Rodriguez values the emphasis the Institute places on helping others, and hopes to do the same throughout his future business endeavors.
“One thing I’m passionate about is really helping out my community.”
Currently, he is able to do so through COHRTA by offering Bronx locals a personal delivery fee on their orders. However, Rodriguez hopes to help a larger part of the Bronx community by entering into financial social work.
“One thing I’m passionate about is really helping out my community,” Rodriguez said. “I want to do financial social work for the community and teach people in the Bronx how to manage their finances.”
Rodriguez’s goals do not stop there, as he said he hopes to ultimately work for nonprofit organizations and continue helping others throughout his career. “An immediate impact is what I look for,” Rodriguez said. “I hope to find a position helping many nonprofits, those that offer opportunities to do some work for those in need in the community.”