For the latest installment of our Student Snapshots series, I sat down with Sherry Rivera. Nominated by her advisor, Vinnie Velasquez, Rivera recently received a $1,000 scholarship to continue her higher education. The bigger accolade, according to Rivera, was that her church nominated her for the scholarship. She holds it as a point of pride, and it speaks to the type of jovial, personable, and steadfast woman she is.
CU: Tell me about your project.
Sherry Rivera: It’s actually branched out to two projects. My first project is a food truck that serves hot dogs with some international flair. I am working on getting a permit right now from the city and once I have that I will know where I can go and park the truck. Ideally, I would love to go to Rhode Island College (RIC) and offer the students better late-night fare.
The second project, I was inspired by my Entrepreneurship class from last semester. The project is a Find Me bracelet and companion app. The bracelet would help find people during crisis situations like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. The bracelet sends a signal to the app to notify friends and loved ones of the person’s location. I also envision tourists and schools using it for longer trips. I am partnering with a few community members to get the bracelet created and design and make the app.
CU: Those are two very distinct projects. What made you decide to pursue them?
SR: Well, the bracelet can give people a sense of peace because it would allow people and children to be found much easier in crisis situations. And I want to help give people that sense of peace in their lives.
As for the food truck, I have always wanted to have my own business but I want to use it as a jumping off point vehicle to help other people learn to be self-sufficient and run their own business.
CU: When was the last time your project inspired you or humbled you?
SR: Every day when I’m at work. I am always thinking about what I need to do for my projects. What more I need to do. And lately, the earthquakes in Switzerland and Italy have really pushed me beyond my self-critical voice. Plus, the support and constant encouragement from my family, friends, and church is so humbling because they want me to do so well and want me to succeed with my projects. My bishop said to me, about my projects, that if I don’t keep pushing, I am being disobedient to my calling, to the work I need to be doing. It’s constantly being humbled
CU: How have you been advocating for your projects, spreading the word?
SR: The only channel I use, besides writing with my cohort, is my own voice within my communities and circles to talk more about it. Part of the learning that they stress here at CU is the Big 10 and one of the Big 10 is Advocacy for Self and Others. So, I have been practicing what I am learning. But before I go deeper, I want to have concrete evidence, not just assumptions, for why people would buy my bracelet.
CU: How did you come to College Unbound (CU) and what effects have you seen in your life as a result of being at CU?
SR: I found out about CU through [CU Recruitment Director] Jill, who came to my church. My bishop talks a lot about what you’re doing with your life and I knew I wanted to go back to school because it had been 15 years since I last attended. I started at Rhode Island College (RIC) but there was a lot of negativity, both in my life and from RIC as well. So, I ended up leaving in my 3rd year at RIC. I tried to go back but I just didn’t have the money to pay to get back in. Then CU popped up! I was able to get financial aid and transfer all of my credits. I didn’t have to start all over again!
Compared to RIC, CU is a lot more hands-on and involved; it’s not about just sitting in a classroom. Getting involved is part of the actual learning process. At RIC, I was getting Ds and Cs but here I have been getting straight As. And it’s not that the work here is easier. The work is still challenging but their way of teaching and transferring information fits my way of learning. Plus, there’s a support system here that I never had before. If I had this support in my previous college, I probably would have graduated from there a long time ago.
CU: In the spirit of giving back and using your voice to help others, who would you like to spotlight for helping you and your project thus far?
SR: I only have to do one person? [laughs] Well, [Assistant Director and Lead Instructor, Prison Bridge Program] Kaiya and [Faculty Advisor] Vinnie to start! Both of them have been there for me at the drop of a hat! They’re not afraid to reach out, even at 10 o’ clock at night.
CU: Is there anything else you would like to say about your project?
SR: Just that I am fully committed to my projects. Even if it takes me till I am 90, I want to see these ideas become reality and impact people!