Class of 1999

Christine Rivera

Christine Rivera was a single mother, but she refused to let that be a barrier to obtaining higher education. With tenacity and determination, she completed her associate degree in liberal arts. After graduation, she worked with an after-school program where she raised herself from a part-time role to eventually become a leader in the organization. She then went back to school to earn her bachelor’s in 2015 and her master’s degree in 2017, both from Boricua College. She currently serves as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in the Bronx with the NYC Department of Education. Christine reflects on her journey and her innate desire to uplift her community by giving Bronx students access to the social and educational services they deserve.

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Ms. Rivera conducted by Alumni Relations Manager Félix Sánchez. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q & A

Félix

What makes you feel proud to be a Hostos graduate?

Christine

As a Latina from the Bronx, I have faced a lot of obstacles. Some people view the Bronx very negatively. I am proud that I have been able to achieve so much, and it was the struggles I faced that have led me where I am today. I feel a deep sense of pride to be from this community.

Félix

What experiences at Hostos helped to prepare you for your future success?

Christine

I was a single mother with three children. I had many reservations and challenges, but I knew that education was the best way for me the create the future I wanted for my children. In my education classes, we learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which centers on the fundamental physical and mental-health needs of a human being from basic safety up through self-acceptance and actualization. We learn about how access to those basic needs affects one’s capacity to learn and grow. I felt that at Hostos, I was safe, respected and accepted, meaning I was on the higher level of Maslow’s. That helped me to open my mind to my studies.  

Félix

What challenges did you experience while studying at Hostos and how did you overcome them? How were you empowered by those experiences?

Christine

I didn't feel empowered in the beginning, because I didn't want to let anyone at the school know what a hard time I was having, balancing school and my family responsibilities. I did my best to stay focused, and the professors really saw me and reached out to me. They empowered me with knowledge. I could talk to them about life or my goals for the future, and they were always encouraging; they also shared any opportunity they came across. I remember specifically my English teacher pulling me aside to tell me he thought I was a great writer. He would say, “You could be an author; you should apply to Columbia University.” I was just focused on obtaining my associate degree first.

Félix

Félix

What is your career now, and how did you end up in your current position?

Christine

When I first came to Hostos, I enrolled in the early childhood education program because as a young mother, that was what I knew. I had young kids, whom I wanted to receive a good education, so naturally, I wanted to be a teacher. It was one of my political science professors who explained to me that I can take liberal arts, and then he explained in detail what liberal arts meant and the diverse opportunities within that degree path.

 

When I graduated from Hostos, I had a part time position in an after-school program. I moved up the ladder from a part time position to supervisor, then to coordinator, and, ultimately, deputy director of that program. With the skills that I had gained through academics and my work experience, I decided to go back to pursue my graduate studies. This year I transitioned to being an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher here in the Bronx with the New York City Department of Education. I like to combine social services and with teaching and education, and I think I got that from the professors at Hostos because they let us be human first. You can know all the taxonomy and all the technical aspects of education, but to really teach, we still must nurture everyone.

Félix

Félix

Who are you inspired by?

Christine

Even though I hope to be an example for them, my children are a constant inspiration to me. My youngest is almost 18 and he's trying to become an entrepreneur. His goal motivates me to contribute to the people of the Bronx, combining aspects of my experience with social services and education.

Félix

Félix

What helps you keep moving forward?

Christine

The struggle of our people is the lack of opportunities in the Bronx. I know that I'm not here on solely my own efforts; I'm here standing on the shoulders of those who came before me, many of whom are still here fighting for better opportunities. That’s what keeps me motivated. I want to continue that cycle of empowering the next generation.

Félix

Félix

What advice would you give a current student to help them be successful?

Christine

I would say listen to and trust yourself. Use the tools that you have to help you overcome your struggles, and if you don't have what you need, reach out to others that you admire. Envision your journey, and never give up.

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