East Moline, IL – This is the story of a shy immigrant girl who was terrified of storms but grew up to become a scientist who studies them for a living. The bonus of being a meteorologist is that Diana Reyes Rodriguez gets to be on TV informing locals about the weather conditions.
Reyes Rodriguez is proud to be a first-generation American. In 1999, her parents immigrated to the United States from Michoacan, Mexico. She was born a few years later. “They decided to move to this country to find a job and provide a better future for me and my siblings,” Reyes Rodriguez shares. “I grew up and was raised in the Quad Cities.” Reyes Rodriguez attended Wells Elementary, where she learned English thanks to their ESL program. She also attended Glenview Middle School and UT High School in East Moline, IL. “As the oldest in my family and a first-generation American citizen, I had no one to pave the way for me or show me how to do things,” she says about what it is like for many out there who grow up in immigrant families. “Since I was little, I’ve always had to figure out things for myself while helping my family along the way. I have translated for my parents and assisted them however I could.”
Those experiences inspired her to be a positive influence in her community. To do that, she continued her education with a scholarship to Black Hawk College in Moline, IL. “My parents did not have the opportunity to finish school. They came to this country not knowing the language so that they could provide for me and my family. I wanted to give them that honor and take advantage of receiving an education because it’s a beautiful part of life,” Reyes Rodriguez says proudly.
After graduating with an Associate’s Degree in science, she transferred to Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, IL, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in meteorology. Although science is her thing, she found meteorology challenging. “The education for this field is extremely difficult. You must complete many different math, physics, computer programming, and meteorology classes. There were many times when I felt discouraged and wanted to give up. Thankfully, I am very blessed to have such a strong support system that kept motivating me throughout all the late nights of studying, tears, and hard work.”
Her choice of career was definitely a surprise to many who knew she was once terrified of storms. “It’s still mind-blowing for me and my parents – some of my past teachers would also agree. I used to be very scared of storms when I was young. I used to think that the world was going to fall apart. I would get very sick at school and my parents would have to pick me up,” she recalls.
Today, she doesn’t let the fear take hold of her. In fact, she did the opposite. She overcame her fears and now she loves working in the field chasing “water vapor tornadoes” as a meteorologist at WHBF Local 4, where she started as an intern. “The summer before my senior year, I was fortunate to have an internship with chief meteorologist Andy McCray. A month into my internship, I was offered a job as a weekend meteorologist while finishing my senior year of college. I am very thankful and proud of this opportunity – especially because I get to start my career in my hometown! Now, I am proud to say that I am the first female bilingual meteorologist in the Quad Cities.”
Reyes Rodriguez hopes to keep growing in this profession while keeping the community safe providing up to date, accurate weather information. “Meteorology is a very male-dominant field, I knew it wasn’t going to stop me from achieving my goals. I do believe that if you stay consistent, motivated, disciplined, and never forget to be happy, you can achieve anything,” she encourages, especially to young Latinos exploring the world of science and meteorology.