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Eduardo Rivas is Focused on His Future

July, 2018
  • Math Learning Specialist Eduardo Rivas
    Math Learning Specialist Eduardo Rivas

Math Learning Specialist Eduardo Rivas is an adjunct faculty member at Quinsigamond Community College, teaching in both the math and accounting departments. He has become a valuable resource for mathematic students thanks to the STEM Starter Academy, which funded the position. He is also on a career path that he hopes may one day land him a job as a financial officer in the higher education field, or perhaps even a college president. His journey to that future began, thanks in large part, to QCC’s Future Focus program.

Future Focus Program

QCC’s Future focus Program began in 1999 and is funded by QCC and a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. QCC is one of only three community colleges that received $100,000 from the state – the most a college can receive. The program was developed to offer non-traditional students a pathway to higher education.

According to Program Coordinator, Gilmarie Vongphakdy, Future Focus students are non-traditional students who generally fall into one of three categories: students who have either gone through the tradition U.S. education system but did not complete their school requirements and instead earned their GED or HiSET high school equivalency; English as a Second Language (ESOL/ESL) participants who already have their high school diploma; or students who graduated from high school years ago and went directly into the workforce.

Participants receive comprehensive support in order to help them succeed as they transition into higher education. The program covers all tuition and fees, books, school supplies (and bus passes if needed), in addition to career and academic advising. Students must successfully complete four courses (12 credits) within one year from the time they start the program.

“The bulk of Future Focus students are in their 30s or 40s, but there are some that are younger like Eduardo and we’ve even had a few in their 50s and 60s,” Ms. Vongphakdy said.

A family focused on their future

For Mr. Rivas, the program was the perfect fit for him, having taken engineering-focused classes in high school in El Salvador before attending classes at Universidad Católica de El Salvador with an emphasis on Business Administration. Once he was in the U.S. and settled in Worcester, he took English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at a variety of Worcester area programs; working hard to master the language. Through a series of mentors who helped him, Mr. Rivas entered the Future Focus program. He took the Accuplacer tests, and proudly states that he got a perfect score in math and a high score in English. He immediately began taking classes at QCC in the evenings, while also working during the day.

Through hard work, dedication and assistance from his Advisor Kirsten Daigneault, former head of the Future Focus program (she also helped him obtain transfer credits from his college in El Salvador), he excelled in all of his classes, becoming a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, Honors Program and recipient of a QCC Honors program scholarship.

During his time at QCC he also became a math tutor after discovering the math tutoring center.

“I’d never had a tutor so I didn’t check out the math tutoring center right away. When I did, I was amazed at all the resources at QCC,” he said. He credits Martha Upton (Learning Manager at the Math Lab) with hiring him as a tutor and supporting him throughout his academic journey.

It’s a true family “Future Focus” affair for the Rivas family. Mr. Rivas’ younger brother, Rodrigo Rivas, also attended the Future Focus program (and was a QCC math tutor), graduating from QCC with an associate degree, before transferring to Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Engineering. His mother, Irene Rosales, is currently in the Future Focus program and is working in QCC’s general academic tutoring center.

In 2013, Mr. Rivas earned his associate degree in Business Administration then transferred to Assumption College where he earned both his bachelor’s and MBA, as well as a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Business. Earlier this month he was the graduation speaker at Excelsior College, in Albany, New York, where he also earned his bachelor’s degree in Technology Management.

Throughout his academic odyssey he has made it a point to give back to the Worcester community, donating his time at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, where he is now the coordinator, along with volunteering at a myriad of other organizations within the community.

He is also a current mentor in QCC’s Brothers & Keepers mentoring program.

“QCC was such a helpful college. I got a great start here thanks to the Future Focus program,” he said.

To learn more about the program, visit Future Focus.