LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — At the beginning of this month, Pedro Rivera started his term as the 10th president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
Previously, he served as the superintendent of the School District of Lancaster and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education. Rivera was the first Latino to hold those positions, he notes.
“As proud as I am to have been the youngest in a lot of my jobs, to have been the first in many of my career choices, but I’m even prouder to say that I…was never the last,” says Rivera. “That as an educator is what we’re most proud of — that we set the trajectory for others to be successful.”
Rivera first realized his passion for education when he was an undergraduate in college volunteering as a math tutor for a high school student. That led him to become a teacher and administrator in Philadelphia where he grew up. He also worked with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
From there he moved to Lancaster to serve as the superintendent of the School District of Lancaster and then the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education. In total, he has been working in education for nearly 25 years.
“I’ve been so lucky,” says Rivera. “I’ve been able to…identify something that I absolutely loved and was passionate about.”
As president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Rivera hopes “to really advance that mission that Thaddeus Stevens envisioned, to focus on the students who need our services the most, to focus on preparing the next first-generation college student like I was,” he says.
Rivera’s grandmothers moved to the United States from Puerto Rico when his parents were very young. His maternal grandmother had a fourth-grade education, he says, and held a job in the U.S. sewing zippers onto denim. His paternal grandmother cleaned houses in New York.
“To think of starting from those humble beginnings and just everything that they were able to accomplish in raising a family and earning a living and supporting their communities is just awe-inspiring,” says Rivera.
“When you think of my service as a community leader, I’ll never feel like I paid back the sacrifices that my grandparents made and my mother made and my aunt made to get us to the point that we are now,” he says.
Rivera says he is proud to be Puerto Rican, and he sees it as beneficial to his work. While his family history may impact the work he does, his work is also impacting future generations.
“To think that the decisions I made almost 10 years ago are impacting my son who’s in high school now at McCaskey and my little girl who’s in fourth grade in the School District of Lancaster at Wharton is a point that I’m extremely proud of,” says Rivera.
His family’s story is one that many Latinos in this country share, says Rivera. Latinos who came to the U.S. “in search of a better life” develop and shape their communities “and continue to lead and to grow and to contribute,” says Rivera. He hopes to continue that legacy as president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
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