Martha Rivera ’12 was 11 years old when she saw a sign for piano lessons at the Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center in Santa Ana.
“But we didn’t have money to pay the $5 for me to take classes,” Rivera remembers. “So my mom exchanged her cleaning services at their office for my ability to participate in the program.”
Rivera’s lessons didn’t stop at the piano. Her world expanded after meeting Ana Jimenez-Hami, Ph.D., the center’s founder and a part-time faculty member at Chapman University, said Rivera, the featured speaker at the most recent annual fundraising gala for Friendly Center, an organization in Orange that provides services to low-income families.
Jimenez-Hami would become one of Rivera’s many mentors, starting her on a path that took her to the Orange County School of the Arts and then to Chapman, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and Spanish before continuing on to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, earning an Ed.M. in human development. Rivera’s Harvard research focused on Latino men and the role mentors play in learning and higher education.
Today, Rivera lives in Anaheim and is the program director for Bright Prospect, a Pomona-based nonprofit that empowers high potential, low-income Southern California students to gain admission to and graduate from four-year colleges and universities. Two students Rivera works with were offered admission to Chapman this year, with more likely to follow.
“I have a junior who just asked me about Chapman. She really wants to go to a small school that will give her access to opportunities. That’s how I describe Chapman, a school with a lot of access and support in place,” Rivera said.
“Working with students is the greatest honor of my life. I have the opportunity to empower and provide students with support as they explore the world around them. My goal is to be like my mentors and transform lives.”
(Photo/Nicholas Academic Centers)