Cooking up charity with Lindsay local’s initiative

Denyse Rodrigues gives back to Lindsay’s high school students through scholarships and financial mentorship

LINDSAY – Denyse Rodriguez has provided seven scholarship opportunities to Lindsay students this year through her cooking, alongside nonprofit events such as the Lindsay Rib Cook-off.

Rodriguez jumpstarted Restoring Your Community, a scholarship opportunity that offered seven different financial awards to current and incoming high school seniors in Lindsay. Nearly half of these funds were donated by the Lindsay Rib Cook-off, while the other half came from Rodriguez’s homemade menudo. 

“God doesn’t give us our talents for ourselves, he gives them to us to help other people,” Rodriquez said. “And since something that I love to do is cook, I kind of just tied it into [fundraising] and just went from there.”

Suffering from student loan debt and fraud inspired Rodriguez to begin her fundraising journey in 2021, where she was able to give out three scholarships to Lindsay High School students in hopes to make a difference in their future student debt. This year, the number of scholarships has grown to seven. With the money Rodriquez has raised from selling home-made menudo, she was able to give out four different scholarships, totalling $3,000. 

The other three scholarships, also totalling $3,000, were donated by the Lindsay Rib Cook-off, an annual non-profit event that merges BBQ and charity. This was the first year that the Cook-off has allocated funds toward student scholarships, as most of their charity extends to the Lindsay Police Department and school sports teams. Lindsay Rib Cook-off Board Member Bruce Watts voiced his support of Rodriguez’s work to support students.

“They’re helping kids, that’s right up our alley. That’s what we are, that’s what we’re all about,” Watts said. “And that’s our whole mission is to give money to families and children and Lindsay.”

Watts was a former high school teacher of Rodriguez and aided her in creating her scholarship applications. According to Watts, it was impactful to see some of the applications received for the scholarships. Not only were the students’ stories inspiring to Watts, but their grade point averages were impressive, too. 

Rodriguez also reached out to the Migrant Education Program, which offers supplemental educational services to migrant children, to reach students that otherwise are unable to apply for most scholarships. However, Rodriguez made it clear that she hopes to help all students who take the time and effort to apply.

“There is a criteria that I look for first, which is students that are not able to apply for scholarships because they don’t have a social or just like the DACA students,” Rodriguez said. “I just don’t feel like it’s fair just because they don’t have a social or can’t apply for something doesn’t mean that they don’t want to continue their education.”

According to Rodriguez, the money that is given to the selected students comes from her heart and the hearts of those in the community. As someone who continues to battle student loan debt, she seeks to mentor students on how to approach paying for higher education better by sharing her own story and the struggles she has experienced. 

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