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At USF St. Petersburg graduation, couple proves perseverance pays off

St. Petersburg residents Chandra Rodino, left, holds her 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella Rodino, while her husband, Joseph Rodino, second from right, hugs his brother-in-law, Don Trell. Also pictured at right is Joseph Rodino’s father-in-law, James Robinson of St. Petersburg. Chandra and Joseph graduated Sunday from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg at the Mahaffey Theater. They have been married for 15 years.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

St. Petersburg residents Chandra Rodino, left, holds her 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella Rodino, while her husband, Joseph Rodino, second from right, hugs his brother-in-law, Don Trell. Also pictured at right is Joseph Rodino’s father-in-law, James Robinson of St. Petersburg. Chandra and Joseph graduated Sunday from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg at the Mahaffey Theater. They have been married for 15 years.

ST. PETERSBURG — Chandra and Joseph Rodino sat beside each other Sunday evening in the cushy seats of the Mahaffey Theater — part nervous, part overjoyed.

Married for 15 years, they yearned to hear their names called, one after another, to prove their accomplishment.

It had taken them three years and then some. There were sleepless nights while they juggled jobs, schoolwork and a teenage son. And then the daughter, now 22 months, coming 13 weeks early and spending 82 days in the hospital.

Finally, Chandra and Joseph Rodino's names were read aloud at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg's 48th commencement Sunday evening. Wearing black caps and gowns, the St. Petersburg couple earned bachelor of science degrees in business management.

"We did it," Joseph Rodino, 41, said, with a huge smile. "It was a lot of work and a strong test for us, but we did it."

"I can just scream right now," Chandra Rodino, 35, said. "It's an accomplishment and I can show my children that no matter what, you can go back and accomplish something."

The Rodinos were among the 5,705 students from 45 states and 97 nations who have received diplomas from the University of South Florida system since Thursday. In addition, 43 graduates were commissioned as officers in the U.S. armed forces.

Sunday at USF St. Petersburg, there were 47 masters candidates and more than 250 undergraduates to receive diplomas.

USF system president Judy Genshaft encouraged graduates to thank their families, while noting USF's $3.7 billion yearly economic impact on Tampa Bay.

Genshaft also recognized the mothers in crowd: "For Mother's Day, what could be a better present than graduation?" she asked to rousing applause.

For the Rodinos, who work at the AAA Auto Club South, the day was about setting an example for their children.

"Hopefully, with both of us working to get college degrees, it will give our children the additional drive and motivation to be successful," Joseph Rodino said.

At USF St. Petersburg graduation, couple proves perseverance pays off 05/08/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 8, 2011 11:14pm]
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