Rodney G. Demerritte

Commencement: Fall 2014, Ceremony 4

Degree: Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies

Graduate of: School of Environment, Arts and Society College of Arts and Sciences

In the 1980s, Miami native Rodney Demerritte received a football scholarship from the University of Kansas. He eventually left school and returned to Florida, 35 credits shy of a degree.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served for three years. Among his awards and decorations, he earned a national defense service medal and an army service ribbon, and was honorably discharged. He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. For the next 11 years, he found himself without a permanent home.

Rodney admits he didn’t deal with the problems troubling him, but he was not ashamed of being homeless. He said he just needed to “get a grip.”

After getting help, Rodney started a family and went to work at a nonprofit. He lost that job in the recession and had trouble making ends meet for his growing family. The family ended up at a homeless assistance center in Homestead, Fla.

In 2010, Rodney met Jack Coschignano, a social worker at the Division of Veteran Affairs, who assisted the family with finding a home. He introduced Rodney to the Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCVC) Program.

With a newfound confidence, Rodney enrolled at FIU to finish the college career he started more than 30 years before.

Rodney interned with Volunteers of America to reintegrate homeless veterans into the labor force, and later became a peer counselor at the Miami VA. Today, he is helping others suffering from PTSD overcome the challenges he once faced.

Rodney is the first to graduate from FIU’s partnership with the HCVC Program, and now hopes to pursue a master’s degree in forensic psychology.