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Community engagement is one of the many ways you get real-world practice for skills you learn in the classroom. Read here about one student who is putting what he has learned into action for JMU and the greater Harrisonburg community.


Rod Morales

Class of 2022

Major: Economics

Minors: Honors Interdisciplinary Studies; Spanish Translation and Interpretation

Hometown: Uniondale, New York

High School: Washington-Lee High

Highlights: JMU Student Ambassador; knows four different languages, including French; bleeds purple and gold; moved to Virginia from New York in the middle of his freshman year in high school

“I think that the opportunities to do things and to do your part are easy to find at JMU.”

Rod Morales has a helper’s heart.

Both the greater Harrisonburg community and JMU are better because of Morales’ presence.

For Morales, volunteering is a natural extension of a pay-it-forward mentality that got a boost from being welcomed as one of the new kids when he moved to northern Virginia from New York in the middle of his freshman year in high school.

With its flourishing multicultural population, Harrisonburg is an ideal locale for JMU students such as Morales who like to lend a hand—and grab opportunities to put what they learn in the classroom to good use.

A stint as a volunteer interpreter during income tax season checked a whole bunch of boxes for this rising JMU senior.

“I volunteered at a local high school. People could have their taxes done for free and for some of those people who couldn’t speak English, I was an interpreter,” he says, deeming the experience “a good time and a way to use what I know to do some good, I think.”

Morales is also a substitute teacher in the bilingual program for Harrisonburg City Schools, yet another opportunity to get his feet wet in the land of real-world experience.

“Doing what I can to help make people feel at ease is something that I enjoy very, very much,” he says.

Morales also serves as a JMU Student Ambassador, an Office of Admissions position that gives him the chance to spread good cheer and lots of general campus knowledge as a tour guide for prospective students and their families.

No matter the venue, Morales is quick with a smile and glad to do what he can to put people at ease.

After graduation, he hopes to make the most of his JMU education. “With my major in economics, I want to do consulting after I graduate,” he says. “and a nice side hustle would be interpreting because that makes nice money.”

And the potential to expand a helper’s heart.

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