By Elizabeth Cortez
Erika Rivera, California State University, Bakersfield, a junior liberal studies major,was awarded the William Randolph Hearst Scholarship for the 2013 academic year.Faced with the reality of college expenses, her financial need motivated her to serve her country.
“One of the reasons why I joined the military to help lessen my mom’s burden,” said Rivera.
She served the U.S. Army for five years and provided combat support for Operation Iraqi Freedom.“In those five years, I did two tours to Iraq. One of them was 15 months, and the other was one year. I did enjoy it, but I always wanted to continue my schooling, and I always wanted to be a teacher,” said Rivera. Currently, she is in the Army Reserves where she serves one week a month. Rivera trains trains for combat readiness several weeks a year.
In order to be eligible for the CSU Trustee’s award, students must meet a range of requirements, including commitment to community service. A student per campus is selected each year. According to the CSU website,“Scholarships are given to one student from each of the California State University’s 23 campuses.The student is nominated by the campus’ presidents.”
One of the mentors who inspired Rivera to become an elementary teacher was her high school counselor, now Assistant Principal of Delano High School, Rene Ayon. “I grew up in the same area as Erika and was able to relate to many of the challenges she endured. I believe she saw me as someone who really cared and did not see my profession as a job, but rather a career in which I could help young adolescents become respectful young adults,” said Ayon.
“I am super excited— like a proud parent! Erika has served her country with utmost integrity and honor,” added Ayon.
With plans of becoming a teacher, Rivera continues to demonstrate commitment toward helping the Bakersfield community. “I’m really excited. I’m currently looking into more volunteer work because I think they (the award winners) overcame a lot of obstacles. It seems like their personal stories hit me a lot more, maybe because it’s my story so I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Rivera said.