Deven Rodriguez had an upbringing he describes as “tumultuous.” Now a cadet in St. John’s University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Red Storm Battalion, Deven was relentlessly bullied as a child. For years, he felt depressed and rudderless—until finding a sense of purpose in service to others.
“Deven is absolutely driven,” said Eric P. Fekete, Lieutenant Colonel, Professor of Military Science, St. John’s University Army ROTC. “It is impressive to see that at such a young age. He continually pushes himself beyond his limits, and has this fire lit inside of him. He is comfortable being uncomfortable. He is an amazing individual.”
The Management major and native of Broad Channel, Queens, attributes his success to perseverance, motivation, and an intense desire to serve. “People tend to assume that, because of my test results, all of this comes naturally. It does not,” he stressed. “I think I can be an example not just to my fellow cadets, but to everyone, that if you put forth the effort to train your mind and body, you can be successful.”
Deven’s late grandfather, Jack Scotti, served in the US Marine Corps during the Korean War, and his influence on his grandson was profound. The first of several mentors in his life, Deven learned the importance of leadership and service from his grandfather, who also worked as a Public Safety Officer at St. John’s for 16 years. Today, he carries Jack’s dog tags with him wherever he goes.
Fortunate to earn a full scholarship to St. John’s, Deven discussed the possibilities of ROTC with a recruitment officer a few days before his first semester began. He decided to apply and was awarded an ROTC scholarship. Upon graduation next May, he will begin four years of active duty service in the Infantry Branch of the US Army.
“At first I joined because I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to gain many important skills—especially leadership skills—that I could then transfer to the outside world,” Deven noted. However, as time passed, he saw a greater purpose at work. “I will have the ability to really steer these people and give them the direction that they need in life. For me, that is powerful.”
Deven emphasized that being a part of ROTC is like nothing else to which he has ever been exposed. “I am responsible to the people above and below me in the chain of command. If you actually want to become a leader, then this is the program for you, because you are thrown into a position where you are held to a standard, and you have to be accountable. Your biggest responsibility is to develop and mentor those underneath you.”
Deven explained that the ROTC program at St. John’s endeavors to give its cadets a true Army experience. “St. John’s has high-quality faculty and instructors. They do not only discuss military matters; they try to develop us on a more personal level and strengthen our leadership style.”
Service and leadership are an integral part of Deven’s life. In addition to his ROTC service, he is a Catholic Scholar and a member of the President’s Society, the highest honor society at St. John’s. “My leadership style is 100 percent centered on my Catholic faith,” he said. “Always lead with integrity and be a servant-leader.”
Deven is uncertain what his civilian career will look like after his military service ends, but he may go into leadership or executive coaching. To that end, he created the Society of Growth and Success, which operates under the Office of Office of Campus Ministry.
“We have all of these organizations on campus and across the nation that help students find answers about the external world, such as how to get a job and perform strongly on interviews. There are very few organizations which help students answer questions about their internal world, such as, ‘What is my purpose? Who will I become? Who will I serve?’”
Between ROTC training, course work, and extracurricular organizations, he is very busy but still able to fully commit to each activity due to his strong time management skills.
“I live life with a sense of urgency,” he observed. “St. John’s and the ROTC program help me develop in ways that are difficult for me to put into words. It is not only me, but it is also cadets who came before me and who will come
after me. I learn great lessons here, and I want to pay it forward.”