Leah Rodriguez, Class of 2003
When Leah Rodriguez '03 first became a journalist after graduating from Rutgers University, she was mostly interested in writing about fashion. But after a successful run at The Cut, the New York magazine publication aimed at a female audience, she felt herself growing more interested in politics, gender issues, and the struggle of women and girls worldwide.
Today, she writes for Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization that is seeking to alleviate poverty around the world by 2030. Leah covers women and girls for the group’s blog, a role that has allowed her to write on a variety of issues, including gender-based violence, menstrual rights, water and sanitation, and education.
A graduate of Stevens and LREI (Elisabeth Irwin High School) in New York City, Leah was already versed in conversations around social justice and equity when she arrived at Global Citizen and quickly took to writing articles that sought to shine a light on undercovered stories.
Her organization’s advocacy work was a natural continuation of her education, she said, even though she may not have realized at the time the extent to which social justice is “embedded” in the progressive curriculum. “I think having that foundation and that exposure, subconsciously at least, really set me up to thrive in this environment,” Leah said.
Leah’s work on Global Citizen’s blog allows her to take part in key global issues affecting women and girls.
“I think a lot of nonprofits have smaller blogs that aren’t chiming into the conversation around the issues they cover and just focus on their own work,” she said. “But as an advocacy group we really try to shine a light on these issues as they’re happening in current events to help our audience understand why they’re important and why we should be taking action.”
One area on which Leah is particularly focused is equitable access to female sanitary products, like tampons and pads, that are often too expensive for women in poverty.
“Tampons are taxed as luxury items, and they’re obviously not luxury items, they’re necessities,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s really not about the products themselves. It’s about education. It’s about discriminatory beliefs.”
Leah credits the writing-intensive curriculum at Stevens with helping her establish herself as a journalist. The emphasis on narrative structure, storytelling, social justice, and creative and critical thinking all “really just set me up to be a writer,” she said.
She also credits the school’s “epic” field trips, especially an eighth grade exchange trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, with helping her develop the global consciousness required to work for an international nonprofit.
“Stevens taught me how to be an independent thinker and an independent worker,” Leah said. “We really had a lot of freedom to make things our own and put ideas out there. And had the support to make them happen.”
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of SCOOP magazine.