Success at Work: Dezirae Rodriguez

FORT WORTH, Texas — While attending high school in Mansfield, Dezirae Rodriguez took a class that forever changed her and determined her career path — American Sign Language (ASL) taught by a teacher who was Deaf.

The teacher did a masterful job of sharing her experiences in the Deaf community culture. Until then Dezirae didn’t know ASL interpreting was even a profession.

The lure was unmistakable, but she worried about paying for college. “I knew I could not afford university tuition and considered letting that dream die.”

She still remembers the day she decided Tarrant County College was the place for her. A TCC representative came to her senior AP English class with information about available programs.

There it was on the list: Sign Language Interpreting.

“As a first-generation college student expected to fund my education, I feared the cost would be an obstacle to obtaining my degree,” she said.

Except the TCC brochure featured a graph with a cost breakdown compared to other colleges and universities.

Getting a higher education was doable!

“At each step, a TCC staff member was ready to assist me and offer additional resources I didn’t know existed. From opportunities for jobs or scholarships, access to counseling, learning labs and supplemental instruction to mentors and so much more, someone supported me.”

Along the way, TCC changed how Dezirae felt about education. “When I started college, my goal was to get in, get out and get done.” Instead, TCC faculty, staff and other students inspired her to stretch her horizons.

“The resources they provided me transformed my life. I developed a curious mind and learned how to advocate for student rights. I became someone I was proud of.”

Additional help came from mentors. When Dezirae failed to receive a scholarship from the Tarrant County College Foundation, she was devastated, given that her résumé was filled with achievements — Student Government Association president, tour guide, Phi Theta Kappa secretary, plus she had received recognition awards from the College.

Then Eddie Brassart, the assistant director of student development services at the time, read her application essay andencouraged Dezirae to use TCC’s Writing Center. There she learned the difference between saying what you’ve done versus showing through storytelling.

“It completely changed how I wrote scholarship essays,” she said. The next cycle, she received the Marvin B. Loeb Sign Language Interpreting Scholarship, which is based on academic merit and the applicant’s major. She also was a semifinalist for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and received the Chancellor’s Transfer Scholarship at Texas Christian University.

Even though Dezirae had financing concerns about TCC, she graduated with her Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science and bachelor’s degree debt-free. In addition, she received the Chancellor’s Transfer Scholarship to Texas Christian University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication.

She joined Hired Hands, Inc., in 2021 as a community interpreter. Her work can touch all genres of the craft — education, medical, business, theater. “By being in the community, I can see the clients’ success and assist in providing services.”

Co-owner Debbie Mitchell-DiPaolo considers Dezirae a valuable team member. “Dezirae will make great contributions to the world. As she works on her professional development, she recognizes opportunities to better the group as a whole.”

Dezirae also works for VRS, a video relay service where she interprets for people across the country. The job has taught her volumes about ASL regional sign variations.

“It has vastly expanded my knowledge of the language and the many ways to express it,” she said. “It is important for interpreters to embrace the ‘forever student’ mentality, to seek out new information and sign variations and add to your toolbelt the many ways you can express something.”

Her advice to anyone considering college? When you know someone who has an interesting career, ask about it. “People love to share their career journeys. It can be affirming for you to learn the steps they took to arrive at their success. Take the lessons they learned and apply them to your life.”

Dezirae has no hesitation recommending TCC.

“Here, success is truly within reach. College is the experience you make of it, and TCC is an incredible place to start!”

Sign Language Interpretation – Tarrant County College (

Tarrant County College is one of the nation’s largest higher education institutions and boasts the second-lowest tuition of Texas’ Top 10 community colleges. A comprehensive two-year college with six campuses in Tarrant County and online classes, TCC offers a range of opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds, including Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees; workforce and economic development programs; technical and skilled trades programs; and customized training for area businesses and corporations.