When asked to think of three words that come to mind when he thinks of Graland, Trinidad (Trini) Rodriguez, Class of 1989, said “relationships, experiences, and growth.” Since his time at Graland, Mr. Rodriguez has dedicated his career as a changemaker to these same themes, making him the ideal recipient of the 2023 Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award. Each year, the Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award honors alumni whose extraordinary contributions in their field are reflective of the exemplary qualities of the person, Graland Country Day School, and the global community in which we live.
When asked what receiving this award means to him, Mr. Rodriguez said, “It is a distinct honor to receive this award. My relationship with Ms. Priest spanned nearly all of the seven years I attended Graland. What sticks out to this day is the way she empowered me to make my own contribution to our classes’ experiences. I think of the way she taught us about the native peoples of the Four Corners region, including their ancestry, history, traditions, and legacy. It started in the classroom with her own intricate models and stories and eventually continued with our trip to the Southwest. In addition to making learning fun, the reverence she had for our subject helped me build a sense of confidence in my own native heritage. To this day, I carry her legacy forward in my own work, which inspires me to want to do so much more.”
During his time at Graland, Mr. Rodriguez immersed himself in a wide variety of activities, including football, lacrosse, an intramural kickball league, the musical, student council, Latin courses, and more. When asked to share what stood out to him about his time at Graland, Mr. Rodriguez said, “The fact that learning was anchored in experience really left a lasting impression on me. This helped in how we learned, but also what we learned. By putting us into experiences, such as catching insects in Cherry Creek with Jack McKenna or immersing ourselves in Taos’ history with Nancy Priest, our curriculum grew to accommodate the interests of the entire class. It seems like this is an increasingly rare opportunity in today’s world, but all the more important.”
After graduating from Graland in 1989, Mr. Rodriguez went on to attend East High School (where he met his future wife) and eventually the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Throughout this time, Mr. Rodriguez continued to immerse himself in experiences that advanced his learning, such as traveling to Ecuador for a service project, visiting Mexico to witness international trade, and interning at Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C. Following this internship, Mr. Rodriguez returned home to Colorado to work for Governor Romer in his policy office, energy conservation office, and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. With this experience under his belt, Mr. Rodriguez was inspired to take his career as an engaged citizen and thoughtful leader one step further. “I launched my career in public finance investment banking in 1999, a niche area of financing public purpose infrastructure using bonds. This took the form of bond issuances to build classrooms, health facilities, community amenities such as libraries and recreation centers, roads and airports, and multi-family apartments throughout the U.S.,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Throughout all of those years, I also volunteered as a leader in our city and region focused on housing affordability, city building, economic development, and equity and fiscal fairness and sustainability. Some of my roles involved chairing the Downtown Denver Partnership, Denver Housing Authority, and Colorado Fiscal Institute and serving as a board member at several institutions, including the Rose Community Foundation and New America School. After 23 years in public finance, I took a sabbatical to focus on my leadership capabilities and explore a broad array of personal and entrepreneurial interests, including urban agriculture. In fall 2022, I decided to enter the Denver mayor’s race. Though I did not win, it was an honor and privilege to work to serve our city in this way.”
Today, Mr. Rodriguez resides in Central Denver with his wife and daughter Catalina ’17. He remains active in the community by serving as a board member at Metropolitan State University of Denver Foundation and on the Colorado governor’s revenue estimating advisory committee. In addition, Mr. Rodriguez is in the early stages of starting a company “focused on creating opportunities to grow highly nutritious fruits and vegetables naturally throughout cities.” In a word, Mr. Rodriguez remains dedicated to helping the organizations he is involved in “thrive,” much like Graland in its work to live out the initiatives of the strategic plan. When asked his opinion on what is needed for current families, students, and educators to continue to thrive at Graland, Mr. Rodriguez said, “I applaud that Graland is cultivating a culture of belonging as it pursues its ‘THRIVE’ vision. This came up in my own path at Graland. I also saw this in my daughter’s path there. When all feel this sense of belonging, all benefit from a more profound set of experiences. In learning how to help others belong, we learn how to successfully navigate in what the strategic plan acknowledges is a rapidly and dramatically changing world. All of this will prepare students and Graland to make greater and more positive contributions to everything they work on. In the end, the results will be ever more rewarding just as Nancy Nye Priest and her legacy teaches so many of us.”
On Thursday, October 26, 2023, Mr. Rodriguez received the Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award at the Fall Cocktail Party, surrounded by current members of the Graland community, alumni, family, and friends. Congratulations!